Oakland Athletics bench coach Ryan Christenson performed a clear and obvious Nazi salute to greet players returning to the dugout on Thursday.
People were obviously fuming at the act, wanting answers why Christenson performed the salute, and what the Athletics planned to do following the incident. Instead of getting answers or a plausible justification, they were met with two of the weakest, bullshit excuses from both the coach, and the organization.
Christenson claims he was trying to adapt to the Covid world by using a gesture that would allow him to celebrate players while practicing social distancing. Meanwhile the Athletics took a soft approach too, saying the gesture “looked like a Nazi salute.” Both are total horseshit. There is zero reason Christenson needed to salute like he did unless he was trying to make a point, and saying this “looked like a Nazi salute” is laughable. This wasn’t simply a case of mistaken perception — it was clearly, and obviously the same gesture used in Germany during the 1930s to pledge fealty and obedience to Adolph Hitler.
There’s an abundance of evidence that shows this wasn’t a simple mistake by a coach who wasn’t thinking clearly. In historian Richard J. Evans’ book The Coming of the Third Reich he detailed how Hitler and Nazi soldiers would greet each other. Soldiers would perform the traditional Seig Heil salute, while Hitler would respond with a raised arm, crooked at the elbow as his sign of reciprocating the salute.
MLB players have been widely using a crooked arm elbow bump as a means to show appreciation, while avoiding the traditional high five. It’s entirely too coincidental that not only would Christenson “accidentally” perform a Nazi salute, but know his players would walk past him performing a gesture similar to Hitler’s response.
Furthermore, there is no way a reasonable, logical person would adopt the Nazi salute without any kind of awareness of what they were doing. The outstretched arm, at an angle just above shoulder height, with no break at the elbow is identical to how Nazi’s performed the salute. In addition, it seems at least one of his players was aware that what Christenson was doing was wrong. In the video you can see Liam Hendriks pull the coach’s arm down, clearly indicating that his gesture was not okay — before Christenson laughs about it, returning to the dugout performing the salute again.
If a reasonable person was informed they were accidentally performing a Nazi salute, especially in a position of prominence, the expected response would see them act mortified. Certainly it’s how I would act if it was an accident. Instead Christenson thinks it’s funny, throwing up the salute again for seemingly no reason. These aren’t the actions of someone who believes their actions were “horrible” and “unacceptable” as the coach notes in his apology.
Players and coaches around baseball are adapting to greeting each other in ways where they can still socially distance and avoid contact. Somehow only Ryan Christenson performed a Nazi salute, and trying to play it off as an accident is insulting to everyone’s intelligence.