SOUTH JORDAN, Utah -- They chant it at every football game, but a new rule is cracking down on Bingham High School’s infamous Haka.
For years, the school’s football team has performed the dance before their games to energize themselves and their fans. But recent complaints that the chant was unsportsmanlike and disrespectful have prompted administrators to limit it to home games only.
“It's total malarkey,” said Dee Degooyer, a parent of a Bingham player.
Following a game between Bingham High School and Brighton High School, school administrators within Region 3, Bingham’s region, heard concern from parents about the appropriateness of the dance.
According to Region 3 Chairman Tom Sherwood, the discussion was not specifically focused on Bingham’s dance, but on how every school warms up for their games.
"This is not just about the Haka,” Sherwood said. “We are trying to focus on mutual respect among the schools in Region 3 and finding a balance between school spirit and pre-game activity."
The Haka is an old Polynesian warrior dance, and it is perhaps most famous due to performances of it by the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks. The dance is a part of the Maori culture in New Zealand, and the Maori trace their ancestry back to Polynesian settlers.
Since its inception, the dance was never intended to incite violence, according to Professor Adrian Bell of the University of Utah.
“Today, it’s being misinterpreted to mean something else, that it’s more violent,” said Bell, who works in the U of U’s anthropology department.
Its modern-day use is primarily for celebratory purposes, which is why it makes regular appearances on athletic fields.
“The Haka for Pacific Islanders would be the same as cheerleading for westerners,” Bell said.
During Friday night’s home game at Bingham, fans had mixed reactions to the decision.
“It appears to some people to be disrespectful, and I think you have the right to say whether you want them to do it or not,” said football fan Jeff Curtis.
For Bingham parents, the decision is unfair, and one they’re not planning on following, at least from the stands.
“If they stop the football team from doing the Haka, the Polynesian fans will gather together and do the Haka for the team,” said Mau Tafuna, whose son plays for Bingham.
However, the decision did have the support of the schools in the region. According to Sherwood, all six principals voted on the rule change. While Bingham’s principal abstained, the other five unanimously approved it.
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