Oakland Athletics bench coach Ryan Christenson found himself having some explaining to do after his team’s 6-4 win on Thursday, when video started circulating of him making a gesture that looked an awful lot like a Nazi salute.
In the video, Christenson can be seen stretching out his arm and hand forward at a 45-degree angle as players come in for postgame elbow bumps. For many, the pose was unmistakable as the Nazi salute. Christenson held his arm out for about two seconds, at which point A’s closer Liam Hendriks pushed his forearm in and told him something.
Christenson then pointed to Hendriks, stepped back and briefly repeated the gesture.
Longtime A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser later reacted to the video by tweeting that Christenson was preparing to do his usual postgame karate chop celebration. A video of the chop in practice shows what Christenson might have been trying to do, though such greetings have been discouraged by MLB this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christenson has been with the A’s organization since 2013 and was named bench coach under manager Bob Melvin, who is Jewish, in 2017.
A’s coach apologizes, says gesture was unintentional
Christenson told Slusser that A’s general manager David Forst called him about the matter soon after the game, and that he was not intentionally making a Nazi salute. He did acknowledge just how bad the video looked, though.
Christenson said, “Obviously I wasn’t doing that intentionally. I just blacked out, my mind wasn’t there and I spaced out. I’m sure it looks terrible. I did it but it was not intentional. I don’t know what more to say.”— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) August 7, 2020
Christenson then apologized and said he should know better than to make that gesture, intentionally or not.
More from Ryan Christenson, who says after Hendriks told him, "No, no straight arm, you have to bend your arm," he turned and said, "Oh, I see what you mean, oh no, it's like 'Heil Hitler,' " which Hendriks backs up. Christenson says, "I apologize for everything."— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) August 7, 2020
A few hours later, the A’s released a statement from both the team and Christenson, who reiterated that his gesture was a mistake and something for which he apologizes. The A’s also apologized, calling the gesture “incredibly offensive.”
This all comes just a month after open anti-Semitism became a topic of public discourse in other sports. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson landed in hot water after posting a fake quote about the Jews from Adolf Hitler.
Jackson later apologized and pledged to educate himself on the Holocaust, but not before former NBA veteran Stephen Jackson publicly supported him following the post. Other major NBA figures like Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson found themselves having to explain apparent support for anti-Semitic figures.
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