3 Oct 2015

American football team give haka the boot

12:08 pm on 3 October 2015

Pressure from an online petition and media interest has led to an American football team canning its use of the Ka Mate haka.

A New Zealand academic who works at California State University launched a petition demanding that the University of Arizona Wildcats football team stop performing it prior to their football games.

Christina Campbell said that the Wildcats' performance of the haka clearly showed that they had not been trained in either its symbols, meaning, or cultural significance.

Dr Campbell said their performance had been described by New Zealand students attending the university as a "circus".

Ka Mate was composed by Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha.

Ngāti Toa chairman Taku Parai said that he was unimpressed with the Wildcats' efforts.

"I thought they looked quite silly really and inappropriate, simply because they've taken on something that's very sacred to us and we deem as tapu and have endeavoured to try and apply it without any knowledge of what that haka means and how it's done. I think they've made a hash of it."

The reaction of the tribe, alongside the petition and media interest, was the catalyst for the Arizona Athletics doing a U-turn.

Spokesperson for the Arizona Athletics Jeremy Sharpe said in a statement that the Arizona Wildcats would not longer be using the Ka Mate haka.

"The Arizona football program has a strong lineage of Polynesian student-athletes, and in 2009, a group of players wished to share this aspect of their culture with their team-mates and community.

"As a result, the Ka Mate haka, which had been popularized throughout the world by the All Blacks and recognized by other members of the team, became part of the program's on-field pregame preparation starting that year.

"In sharing the haka with the members of the program, their intent was to show the pride they have in their Polynesian heritage.

"Even though that intent remains the same today, we've been made aware that a segment of the population is unhappy that the haka is being performed. As a result, we have decided to discontinue the activity.

"We want to stress that neither the University, athletics department, football program nor our student-athletes intended to disrespect or offend anyone and we apologise to anyone that was.

"Moving forward, we plan to identify alternatives that will provide an outlet for our Polynesian student-athletes to showcase the heritage they are so proud of. "