Max Matza, BBC, July 22, 2023
An athletic trainer for DC United, the MLS football club in Washington DC, has been fired for making a gesture that is considered by some to be a hate symbol.
The decision comes after the discovery of the “discriminatory hand gesture” in a post published on social media on Thursday, the team said in a statement.
The team did not identify the trainer.
The now-deleted post showed the staff posing on the National Mall. One man is seen making the “OK” symbol, which has sometimes been used as a racist sign.
The trainer’s termination is “effective immediately” and following an internal review, the team said in a short statement on Friday.
“There is no place for racism, homophobia, misogyny, or discrimination of any kind in our sport and world and DC United do not tolerate any acts of this nature.”
It is not clear how the thumb-and-forefinger ‘OK’ hand gesture became associated with “white power”.
It apparently began as an online hoax, or trolling tactic, before it was adopted by some far-right sympathisers.
In 2018 a member of the US Coast Guard was fired for making the hand gesture on live TV.
In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) added it to a list of hate symbols, though the organisation noted its use can still be used to simply show approval of something.
Therefore “particular care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture”, the ADL said.
DC United’s head coach is former UK footballer Wayne Rooney. It is unclear if he was involved in the decision to fire the trainer.