San Jose State discontinuing use of 'Spartan Up' gesture due to resemblance to white supremacist hand sign

Nick Bromberg
·2 min read

San Jose State said Thursday that it would be ending its official use of the “Spartan Up” hand gesture because of the way the “OK” hand gesture has been adopted by white supremacists.

The gesture, created in 1990 by the school’s former band director, encourages SJSU fans to create a Spartan head with their hand by forming “a helmet with your thumb and index finger. Curl remaining three fingers over the top of the helmet, mimicking a feathered plume.”

“We all agree that the gesture has become part of the fabric and footprint of our university, however when the gesture is used improperly, it can be offensive to some members of our university family,” SJSU athletic director Marie Tuite said in a statement. “When our ‘Spartan Up’ hand gesture was misinterpreted as an ‘okay’ sign and not the proper gesture, the improper sign created a division in our campus community. It was timely and appropriate to make the decision to no longer use the hand gesture associated with Spartan Up.’”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the OK gesture was co-opted in 2017 by trolls on a far-right message board who said the gesture represented a “W” and “P” for white power. In 2019, a white supremacist in Australia made the hand gesture in court after he was arrested for murdering 50 people in a multiple mosque shooting spree. That man, Brenton Tarrant, pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder in March.

San Jose State will no longer use the "Spartan Up" hand gesture. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
San Jose State will no longer use the "Spartan Up" hand gesture. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Other changes

The ban of the hand gesture was just one of many changes that San Jose State announced in commemoration of Juneteenth. The school said it wanted to remedy its “incomplete representation of the legacy” of Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

The two legendary Olympians who raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics went to San Jose State and have statues on the school’s campus and the school said the two were subject to “serious racist discrimination” when they came back to school after the Olympics.

“I want to emphasize that this is only the beginning, not the end, of our focus on addressing systemic racism at San José State University,” school president Dr. Mary Papazian said. “Our work will not conclude when the current protests and demonstrations happening nationwide have subsided. We will lead—with our educational practices, recruitment and retention efforts, investments and funding decisions, and, most importantly, with our actions.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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