'Jeopardy!' contestant's controversial hand gesture might not be what it seems

George Back
·Producer, Yahoo Entertainment
·2 min read

Jeopardy! contestant Kelly Donohue made quite an impression during the player introductions on Tuesday. The three-day returning champion made a hand gesture that many viewers found offensive and racist. Fans took to Twitter to question and discuss the sentiment behind the gesture.

Donohue appeared to make an upside-down “OK” sign. The “OK” sign has been co-opted by hate groups, particularly white supremacists. The Anti-Defamation League classified it as an official symbol of hate in 2019.

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While the sign is a symbol of hate, context does matter. One viewer pointed out that during the previous introductions, Donohue held up the number of wins he had coming into the game. Donohue’s gesture was similar to how some people, like a baseball umpire, display the number three.

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Given the current focus on social justice reform and abolition of systemic racism, many people and groups are hyper-aware of hate speech. For example San Jose State recently did away with its “Spartan Up” gesture because it so closely resembled the racist “OK” gesture.

Donohue’s gesture is open to interpretation and there is an abundance of speculation on social media. That being said, he was part of a game that did provide some positive social change. Jeopardy! matched the players’ winnings and donated $23,600 to Justice Defenders, which brings legal support to those who wouldn't otherwise have it in East Africa.

Jeopardy! is a syndicated program; visit Jeopardy.com or check your local listings for the TV schedule.

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