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Elephant Rumblings: A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson apologizes for inadvertent gesture

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Oakland Athletics Team Meeting and Workout Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

The Oakland A’s won their sixth straight game on Thursday, completing a sweep of the Texas Rangers at the Coliseum. After the game, however, the news cycle took a turn away from the action on the field.

During post-game congratulations and elbow-bumps, bench coach Ryan Christenson was spotted with his arm outstretched in a gesture that resembled a Nazi salute.

Christenson apologized, explaining that it was an inadvertent mistake in the course of normal celebration and was not intended as a racist gesture. The A’s also released a statement, in which they recognized the problem, apologized for the incident, and condemned any racist sentiment.

More from Christenson, via Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle:

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.”

...

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.”

For more details on the incident, and for responses and explanations from Christenson and others, please see the links in the A’s Coverage section by Alex Coffey of The Athletic and Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.

***

Twitter is not happy with Christenson, including plenty of calls for him to be fired. Regardless of intent, this is something that is going to offend people and that is absolutely a fair reaction. It does require explanation, and the coach has offered one.

Journalist Noah Frank, a long-time friend of Athletics Nation, gives this take in a five-tweet thread:

Ok, so. If it isn’t obvious by my profile, I’m both Jewish and an A’s fan, and I happened to be watching the end of today’s game. I caught this out of the corner of my eye as it happened, wasn’t sure of the full context, so waited to weigh in until we got a little more info.

Just from the video, three clear things happen: 1. Christenson raises his arm for the celebration line ... 2. Liam Hendriks bends Christenson’s arm at the elbow, seemingly correctively ... 3. Christenson turns around and raises his arm again.

It looks bad! It also looks, to me, like the second gesture was an acknowledgment of the problematic nature of the original one, not a defiance of the correction.

The A’s have been winning a lot lately, and as Susan Slusser (beat writer) explained in a tweet within the link below, Christenson has been using a karate chop-like motion for the celebration lines, what with no handshakes and social distancing and all.

Also within that link, he’s apologized to GM David Forst and said he recognized the optics. That’s good. He should sleep on it and apologize again publicly tomorrow. Don’t fire him. This can be a good learning moment for lots of folks about the power of hate symbols.

More, from former A’s Marketing Communications Director Jim Bloom:

As a Jew who worked with Ryan Christenson when he was a player with the A’s, I can tell you that he is a smart, enlightened person. This was unintentional. Don’t gaslight. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. ...

He has offered a very believable explanation. Ryan is a good guy and it was unintentional. In addition he has offered a heartfelt apology. Before you pass judgement, are you sure all of your past actions would pass the electron microscope of social media judgement?

It is up to each individual to decide what they think about any given thing, and we are each entitled to our own opinions. Personally, I believe Christenson’s explanation that it was an innocent coincidence followed by a physical acknowledgement of his mistake once it had been pointed out to him by Hendriks. At the same time, I recognize why this is a problem and don’t at all belittle the feelings of people who are hurt by what happened — something doesn’t have to occur on purpose to trigger real trauma and negative emotions.

Please stay safe, love each other, and be mindful and considerate of other people in the words you speak and the actions you take.

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