Oakland A's bench coach Ryan Christenson sparked criticism on social media after he did an apparent Nazi salute following a victory over the Texas Rangers. He later issued an apology through the team, admitting he made a mistake. The A's also released a statement and said that Christenson greeted players with "what looked like a Nazi salute."
The incident occurred on Thursday as Christenson and the A's were celebrating the win. Christenson raised his arm to make the gesture as players walked off the field toward the dugout. Player Liam Hendriks pushed Christenson's hand down and then gave him a forearm bump. The 46-year-old coach turned around, pointed at Hendriks and then raised his arm a second time. These two gestures prompted a multitude of reactions on social media, as well as several questions from reporters.
"I made a mistake and will not deny it," Christenson said in a statement. "Today in the dugout I greeted players with a gesture that was offensive. In the world today of Covid, I adapted our elbow bump, which we do after wins, to create some distance with the players. My gesture unintentionally resulted in a racist and horrible salute that I do not believe in. What I did is unacceptable and I deeply apologize."
When this incident occurred, social media users immediately responded with a wide range of comments. Some called for Christenson to lose his job immediately. Others said that his body language made it appear that the bench coach made an honest mistake. Christenson did later make comments about the gesture during a conversation with the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Obviously I wasn't doing that intentionally," Christenson said. "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." The bench coach also told the Chronicle that he was reaching out to do a karate chop with Hendriks.
Susan Slusser of the Chronicle later spoke to Hendriks, who confirmed Christenson's story. The A's player said that he had told the bench coach to bend his arm and that this led to the second gesture. "I know Ryan Christianson and what happened today was in no way a reflection of who he is," Hendriks told Slusser in a text.
Following Christenson's apologies, debates have continued to rage about his intent and whether or not he should lose his job. A vocal majority compared the gestures to Nick Cannon and DeSean Jackson making anti-Semitic comments and said that the A's should fire the bench coach. Others have said that the gestures were unintentional. A's manager Bob Melvin also weighed in and described Christenson as "progressive" and said that the entire clubhouse supports him.