Arizona to stop performing criticized ‘haka’ dance before games

Arizona has been performing the haka dance ritual before games since 2009.

Casey Sapio/Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona is no longer in a dancing mood.

The Wildcats’ pregame "haka" dance ritual, which originated in New Zealand centuries ago and has been a pregame staple at Arizona games since 2009, is being halted immediately, the school said Thursday.

There were a number of complaints as well as a petition filed by a New Zealand native and California state professor after the ritual was featured during the broadcast of last Saturday’s game against UCLA. According to the complaints, the Wildcats were not doing the haka properly.

The following video, from the athletic department’s website, shows players performing the haka prior to the 2012 season:

The New Zealand Herald confirmed with a school spokesperson that Arizona will no longer be conducting the ritual, which was made popular in recent years by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby squad.

"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 teammates and community," the spokesperson said, according to the Herald. "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 …

"Even though (the intent to share Polynesian heritage) 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."

Taku Parai, the chairperson of the Ngati Toa runanga — which says it originally composed the Ka Mate haka around 1820 — told Stuff.co.NZ that Arizona’s version is "pathetic" inasmuch as the Wildcats "certainly don’t do it properly."

Parai told Stuff.co.NZ that Arizona should consider getting tutoring in the dance if the team wants to continue with it in the future.