Officials of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point have launched an investigation after 16 African-American women cadets posed with raised fists for a graduation photo.
The West Point cadets are now in hot water with some critics saying the photo is a violation of the long tradition and strict rule at the U.S. Military Academy that prohibits any kind of political statement in uniform.
The pose the candidates struck has been used by the Black Lives Matter organization and Beyonce during her controversial Super Bowl performance that some saw as a tribute to the Black Panthers of the 1960s.
The photo was released online last month and has raised eyebrows with comments like: "If their military careers flame out, maybe Beyonce can give these gals jobs on her road crew.”
Tony Lombardo, editor of The Army Times, broke the story about the controversial photo.
He told IE: "This is a very serious situation that these women find themselves in. Even if they didn't mean to make a political statement, in the U.S. military you can still get in trouble for this, they could still be charged. It could kill their careers."
Seventeen African-American women are scheduled to graduate later this month. All but one posed for the controversial photo in dress grays.
The women also took another photo that is part of a long tradition known as an “Old Corps Pose.”
Mary Tobin is a West Point graduate and Iraq veteran who served as a mentor for the cadets.
"Four years of hard work, would they risk that in one moment in one picture? The answer is no," she said.
A video taken at a West Point concert showed another tradition -- cadets with raised fists during the "Army Strong" theme.
"The fact of the matter is that we raise our fists so much at West Point -- for our teams, our clubs, for any activity. We are very competitive."
In a statement, West Point said: "academy officials are conducting an inquiry into the matter."