'Jeopardy!' Contestants Demand Action Over Alleged White Power Hand Gesture and Cultural Slur

More than 400 former Jeopardy! contestants are asking the show's producers to take a closer look at a few controversial moments from the quiz show this week: one where a returning champion made a hand gesture that denotes "white power" and another where a contestant used a term considered to be a slur. In a letter, the former contestants say they "feel the need to speak out against the messaging that these choices communicated — either intentionally or unintentionally — by the contestant Kelly Donohue and, implicitly by association, the producers of Jeopardy!"

During Tuesday's program, champion Kelly Donohue was introduced at the top of the episode and placed his hand on his chest with his index finger and thumb touching while his other fingers were outstretched. While this could have been an indication that he won three games, others noted that the gesture is similar to one that denotes "wp" or "white power."

Deadline reports that 467 alleged former Jeopardy! contestants wrote an open letter to the show via Medium. In the letter, which was published on Wednesday, the individuals are demanding an apology from the show's producers for not taking note of the gesture. The group wrote that the gesture in question is connected to one that is used by white power groups, including the anti-government Three Percenters. The Anti-Defamation League noted that this symbol was co-opted by white supremacy groups around 2017, even though the gesture has long signified "OK."

"A couple of years ago, a contestant unintentionally wagered a monetary amount that used numerical values coopted by white supremacist groups and, since the total didn't affect the outcome of the game, 'Jeopardy!' digitally altered the numbers in the version that aired," their letter continued. "This should have been done in this case. Intentional or not, the burden was on the production team to catch the similarity to a hate symbol and make sure it didn't end up on air."

Donohue claims that the gesture was used to indicate that he won three games, as he flashed one finger when he won his first and two when he won his second. It should be noted that amid this controversy, it's unclear exactly what the intent was behind the gesture. Donohue's winning streak did come to an end on Tuesday's episode.

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As for the culturally insensitive answer that appeared during a game, the contestants are referring to an exchange from Monday's episode. The answer asked for a term for the Roma or Romani people. The contestant gave "What is a gypsy" as the response, which was widely used until recently when it was deemed to have native connotations. Many Roma people see it as a slur, suggesting that they're swindlers and thieves.

"Yes, it may be an innocent or ignorant reply, and yes, it was technically correct," the contestants wrote. "But on a television show for an international audience, the impact on a larger stage needs to be taken into account."