Oakland A’s Bench Coach Ryan Christenson appeared to make a Nazi salute during a game on Thursday. (Photo/Twitter-Joshua Potash)
Oakland A’s Bench Coach Ryan Christenson appeared to make a Nazi salute during a game on Thursday. (Photo/Twitter-Joshua Potash)

Oakland A’s bench coach says Nazi salute was ‘a mistake’

A coach for the Oakland A’s is taking heat after making what appeared to be a Nazi salute on Thursday after a 6-4 victory against the Texas Rangers.

As the game ended, bench coach Ryan Christenson was congratulating each player and briefly raised his right arm in the familiar salute before pitcher Liam Hendriks appeared to nudge his arm down as he passed by. Christenson then turned around and quickly made the gesture again. Other coaches in the lineup greeted players with a forearm bump.

That evening, after a video of the salute made the rounds on social media, Christenson and the A’s together released a statement apologizing for the incident. “I made a mistake and I will not deny it,” the coach said. “Today in the dugout I greeted players with a gesture that was offensive.”

 

Christenson, who advises the team’s manager on in-game decisions, explained in his statement that he’s started using a “forearm chop” to minimize exposure to his teammates during the pandemic and inadvertently made the Nazi salute.

“What I did was unacceptable and I deeply apologize,” Christenson said.

In its part of the statement, the A’s said, “We do not support or condone this gesture or the racist sentiment behind it.”

Temple Beth Abraham’s Rabbi Mark Bloom, a fan of both the A’s and the Giants, told J. that he accepts Christenson’s apology.

“This was a coach not understanding what he was doing,” he said.

Bloom added that the team has always been very supportive of and welcoming to his Oakland synagogue during the A’s annual Jewish Heritage Night, an event many in Bloom’s congregation have attended.

“I like to give the organization the benefit of the doubt,” the rabbi said. “I really think he wasn’t associating [the gesture] with anything Nazi-related.”

Some defended Christenson, including Henry Schulman, a sports writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I’m a Jew and son of Holocaust survivors,” Schulman tweeted. “I do not believe after six years in the majors and a lengthy coaching career Ryan Christenson suddenly decided it would be fun to celebrate a win with a Nazi salute. I believe him. Glad he apologized and understands offense. Let’s move on.”

On Friday, outfielder Mark Canha said during an interview with reporters that Christenson had made a mistake.

“I think he just kind of slipped and he didn’t realize what he did quickly and, you know, you can just see the fact that it was unintentional by watching the video,” Canha said.

Others condemned the incident, including Seth Brysk, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

“The murder of 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children, is not a subject for glib analogies, lightheartedness or exploitation,” he said in a statement to J.

In an article on the sports blog SBNation, staff writer James Dator called the apologies from Christenson and the A’s “laughable and disgusting.”

“[T]here is no way a reasonable, logical person would adopt the Nazi salute without any kind of awareness of what they were doing,” Dator wrote. “The outstretched arm, at an angle just above shoulder height, with no break at the elbow is identical to how Nazis performed the salute.”

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at gabriel@jweekly.com and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.