There are many questions surrounding Ryan Christenson of the Oakland Athletics coaching staff. Some say the A’s coach was seen on television giving a “Nazi Salute” to the team after their win today. Others say that he was just preparing to give his customary “Karate Chop” high-five-substitute to players after a victory. Christenson apologized for the way it looked and said it was completely inadvertent. Some are calling for his resignation or firing, while others support Christenson—including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
There are two very different opinions about the gesture that Christenson made. The first is that he is a racist who celebrated today’s win by giving his team a Nazi Salute. The second is that Christenson’s “karate chop” high-five-substitute unfortunately started the way a Nazi Salute ends. Regardless of which one it was, a closer look is justified during these tumultuous times in our country.
History of This A’s Coach
Ryan Christenson is a California native who grew up in the mostly-Hispanic city of Riverside. He went to college at Pepperdine University in Malibu and was drafted by the A’s in the 10th round of the 1995 Amateur Draft. Christenson debuted in 1998 for the A’s and played all three outfield spots for them over three full seasons. He played a total of six seasons in the majors with a handful of teams—mostly as a bench player. From bench player to Bench Coach, Christenson was promoted to be an A’s coach in 2018 after successful stops at AA and AAA—Including Texas League Manager of the Year in 2016. In this video you can see the incident in question as the A’s coach greeted players after their latest win. Let’s look closer at these two scenarios.
An Unintentional Gesture
Christenson says that it was completely unintentional that the gesture looked similar to a Nazi Salute. Both the A’s coach and the team put out statements apologizing for the incident. People who know Christenson well and have known him for years agree with his version of the story. In this version, Christenson was preparing to give his “karate chop” as he has often done this season. He has been giving these chops in place of the high-five this season—to keep socially distant from players. This part of the story checks-out because he is on camera doing it multiple times this year.
The story goes that Christenson was preparing to give one of these chops to Liam Hendricks and was oblivious to the stiffness of his arm. When Hendricks noticed that his arm looked like a Nazi salute, he made Christenson aware of it. The A’s coach quickly agreed and was embarrassed because he knew it looked bad. Immediately after that, Christenson seemed to mock himself, like “people are going to think I was doing this.” It was kind of like an “oh no” moment in which he realized how people might misunderstand him.
That is one scenario. It may seem likely to most, but there is an alternate story as well.
A Purposeful Gesture
The fact is that his gesture looked like a Nazi salute. It is also a fact that he did it twice, as people on Twitter have verified extensively. There is a possibility that Christenson is a racist and he has been able to hide it until now. It is an awkward time to let the proverbial cat out of the bag on live television. However, we are living in unprecedented times and people are going out of their way to make statements. So, anything is possible.
The facts are the facts, and people can decide which scenario they believe. Regardless of whether it was on purpose or just an accidental blunder, it happened. Christenson has taken responsibility for it and apologized for it. The A’s have also apologized for it, and both have denounced the Nazi salute. Regardless of how this story ends for the A’s coach, it will likely be the end of the “Karate Chop” high-five-replacement.
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