University of Arizona vs UTSA

Lineman Sani Fuimaono, dancing the haka with teammates as Arizona prepared to face UTSA earlier in the month, was a high school wrestling star in Honolulu before playing for UA, going on a Mormon mission and then returning to the Wildcats.

The Haka dance was added to the Arizona Wildcats pre-game routine back in 2009 to honor the Polynesian culture of some UA players and to pump up the team — and crowd — at the start of each game.

Now, Arizona will no longer perform the Ka Mate Haka dance before each game, a UA spokesman confirmed to the Star.

After some outcry from some native New Zealanders and a petition signed by 1,831 people, Arizona will move on from that Haka dance. At least, in its current iteration. The Wildcats still plan to find a way to honor its Polynesian players’ culture.

The Haka dance is a traditional one of New Zealand’s Maori people. The petition was started by an associate professor, originally from New Zealand, at Cal State Northridge.

The professor said to a New Zealand news organization that Arizona’s rendition is “a mess and it's an affront to me as a Kiwi that they're doing this, especially that it's Ka Mate."

The Wildcats had been performing the dance since 2009 when Mike Stoops was still Arizona’s head coach — it debuted in a early-season game against Central Michigan — and the tradition continued with Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats are not the only school to perform the Haka pre-game, as BYU and Hawaii both have done it as well.

Arizona’s game against UCLA last week was broadcast on ABC, and the cameras showed Arizona’s pre-game ritual, which led to an outcry on social media and, eventually, the petition to UA president Ann Weaver Hart to stop the Wildcats from performing it in the future. 

In response, Arizona’s athletic department released a statement to the New Zealand Herald saying: “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” and that “moving forward the university were now planning to identify other alternatives that would provide an outlet for their Polynesian student athletes to showcase the heritage they are so proud of.”

Here’s an instructional video the UA released a couple years ago to teach the dance to Arizona’s fans.