Oakland Athletics bench coach Ryan Christenson issued an apology Thursday night after TV cameras caught him making a gesture very similar to a Nazi salute after his team's win earlier in the day.
After the A's beat the visiting Texas Rangers 6-4, Oakland players and coaches lined up in front of the dugout, most of them bumping forearms as Major League Baseball has told people on the field to avoid high-fives in the era of COVID-19.
But cameras showed Christenson initially lift his right arm straight up, palm down, and hold his arm at an angle above his head. Pitcher Liam Hendriks then bent Christenson's arm and bumped his forearm. Christenson, wearing a mask, turned around, pointed said something to Hendriks, then made the gesture again while heading back to the dugout.
"I made a mistake and will not deny it," Christenson said in a statement posted to the Athletics' Twitter account. "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 club also issued a statement in the same tweet:
"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 other are working to expose and address racial inequities in our country. We are deeply sorry that this happened on our playing field."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Christenson said Hendriks told him on the field, "No, no straight arm, you have to bend your elbow." Christenson then said, "Oh, I see what you mean, oh no, it's like 'Heil Hitler.'"
Christenson also told the Chronicle, "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. ...
"I'm cringing inside picturing myself. Of course I'm sorry for it -- it's like standing there with my middle finger up. Anyone should know better."
Christenson, 46, is entering his third season with Oakland and his third as a major league coach. He spent five seasons managing in Oakland's minor league system.
A 10th-round draft pick of the A's in 1995, Christenson spent three-plus seasons in the majors with the club before being traded to Arizona during the 2001 season. He also spent time with Milwaukee and Texas. The outfielder finished his career with a .222 average, 16 home runs and 102 RBIs in 998 at-bats and 452 games.
--Field Level Media