Athletics bench coach ignites controversy with postgame gesture

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A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson found himself embroiled in controversy Thursday after making what appeared to be a Nazi salute while celebrating the team’s victory over the Texas Rangers.

In video captured from the NBC Sports Bay Area telecast, Christenson is seen standing in the handshake line outside the dugout with his right arm extended directly outward, palm down, as the A’s players come off the field. Relief pitcher Liam Hendriks briefly stops to say something Christenson, who then lowers his arm before turning and raising it against momentarily.

The video clip erupted on social media, many calling for Christenson’s immediate dismissal.

We take this time to introduce you to Oakland A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson … who likely saw his last day on an MLB field

W … T … F?!?! (@1053TheFan @1053SS @RJChoppy) pic.twitter.com/RlNbeRgjeo

— T̷R̷O̷Y̷ ̷H̷U̷G̷H̷E̷S̷ (@TommySledge) August 7, 2020

Christenson released a statement:

“I made a mistake and will not deny it. 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.”

The A’s added their own statement, too:

“A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson greeted players with a gesture that looked like a Nazi salute. We do not support or condone this gesture or the racist sentiment behind it. This is incredibly offensive, especially in these times when we as a Club and so many others are working to expose and address racial inequities in our country. We are deeply sorry that this happened on our playing field.”

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Christenson said he received a call at home from A’s GM David Forst and knew why instantly. Hendriks’ brief stop in the handshake line had been a wake-up call.

“Obviously I wasn’t doing that intentionally,” Christenson said of the gesture in an interview with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. “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…. I’m sorry for everything.”

With handshakes and high-fives ruled out during the pandemic, teams across baseball are finding other ways to celebrate. For the A’s, one of those ways has been a karate-chop forearm bash, which is what Christenson was preparing to receive when Hendriks stopped.

In Christenson’s account to the Chronicle, which was backed up Hendriks, the relief pitcher stops briefly in the line to say something to Christenson.

“No straight arm,” he said. “You have to bend your arm.”

MESA, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 20: A portrait of Oakland Athletics bench coach Ryan Christenson (29) during team photo day at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group) 

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