Canha, Melvin Come to Defense of Embattled Athletics Coach Christenson

John Hickey

In the wake of the furor raised by the apparently unintentional uses of the Nazi salute given by Oakland bench coach Ryan Christenson after Thursday’s win over the Texas Rangers, A’s left fielder Mark Canha was quick to rise to Christenson’s defense Friday.

“I fully believe that this was unintentional,” Canha said in a video conference call. “He’s acknowledged it and we’re fully acknowledging that this happened, and it was wrong, even though it was an accident.”

Athletics manager Bob Melvin held a team meeting before Friday night's game. He said it didn't last long, because it didn't have to.

"Ryan Christenson is fully supported by everybody in our clubhouse," Melvin said. "They know who he is, and so do I Obviously, it didn't look great. But that was not his intent at all. O know that for a fact."

The video that hit the internet Thursday evening was captured from the NBC Sports-California telecast. In it, Christenson is seen standing in the typical handshake line near the dugout with his right arm extended, palm down as the players left the field.

Relief pitcher Liam Hendriks is seen to briefly stop to talk with Christenson, who lowers his arm, raises it momentarily, then lowers it again.

“(It was Christenson’s) intention of giving a personalized handshake to a teammate,” Canha said. “I think we ought to give him a pass. This is just an unfortunate thing that we’re acknowledging is wrong. We’re not trying to sweep it under the rug; we’re not trying to brush it off. We’re fully acknowledging that he made a mistake. And it was completely unintentional.”

Christenson told the San Francisco Chronicle that Hendriks told him, “No, no straight arm. You have to bend your arm,” and Hendriks confirmed that.

Christenson said the repeat gesture, which was made while not facing any other players, was a reaction to what Hendriks was telling him, saying “Oh, I see what you mean. Oh, no, it’s like `heil Hitler.’”

In a text to the Chronicle. Hendriks wrote: “I know Ryan (Christenson) and what happened today was in no way a reflection of who he is.”

Melvin said that in the team meeting, "nothing had to be cleared up."

"Everybody supports him. Everybody knows who Ryan is," Melvin said. "So it was a very short meeting."

Asked if he’d ever seen Christenson, 46 and the A’s bench coach since 2018, say or do anything that he would consider racist or culturally insensitive, Canha issued a quick, “No.”

‘I think Ryan actually (goes to) the opposite extreme of that in trying to be fully professional and being very careful actually of what he does and says,” Canha said. “We have Black players. We have Latino players. And as long as I’ve known Ryan, he’s always been kind of overly sensitive and professionally respectful about that.

“There are a lot of things said in a clubhouse when reporters aren’t around that can be off-color at times. And I’ve never known Ryan to even joke or do anything. He’s never slipped up once.”

Canha said he hadn’t seen the action in real time, but watched the clip of it later, saying “I had to see it.”

“If you see his reaction to Liam like bending his arm to show him like `Hey, you need to bend your arm when you do this,’ you can see he is caught off-guard,” Canha said. “It wasn’t intentional at all, if you read the body language of it. You can see the fact that it was unintentional by watching the video.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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