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Hawaii must not perform 'haka' with other team on field

HONOLULU -- A demonstration of Polynesian pride or just
plain offensive?

Hawaii coach June Jones on Monday said his team would continue
performing a pregame Maori war dance called a "haka," despite
being penalized for it Saturday at Louisiana Tech, where the
Warriors escaped with a 45-44 overtime win.

The Warriors performed the emotional chant away from the field
in front of their own fans, but were assessed a 15-yard,
unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That forced Hawaii to kick from
its 15, giving the Bulldogs possession near midfield and setting up
Louisiana Tech's first touchdown.

"It's not going to prevent us from doing the haka in the
future," Jones said.

Hawaii, which slipped four spots to No. 24 this week, was
penalized because Louisiana Tech was still on the field. But Jones
expressed frustration because his team was so far away, on top of a
hill near the locker room.

"We were 75 yards removed from the field, doing what we do --
something that's special to Hawaii and special to our fans," he
said. "It was just an unfortunate situation I thought."

First-year Bulldogs coach Derek Dooley said his team wasn't
affected by Hawaii's haka.

"It's something that's probably a tradition for Hawaii, and
they don't mean it as disrespect," he said Monday. "But at the
same time, it's important to be sensitive to the other team and how
they view it. It's like any religious or cultural event you may
have.

"When you go to Japan, what's a natural custom in the United
States may be offensive to the Japanese. I think there certainly
should be some sensitivity to that."

Hawaii and the rest of the Western Athletic Conference schools
were reminded before the season about the broad WAC sportsmanship
policy that prohibits taunting or obscene gestures considered
threatening or intimidating to an opposing team.

On Aug. 27, WAC Commissioner Karl Benson sent an e-mail to
conference schools, discussing the policy on choreographed
routines, such as dances or chants either before or after a game.

"If they are done in a way that's directed toward the opposing
team in a taunting manner -- or if done to 'incite' the opposition's
fans -- it does violate the policy and will be subject to
penalties," the e-mail said. "Should your institution have a team
that performs some type of routine either before or after a
game-match, it must be done while the opposing team is off the
field or court and in their respective locker rooms."

The e-mail also urged visiting teams to, "not perform any type
of routine whatsoever on the field-court of the home team."

In an interview Monday, Benson said his intent was not to single
out the University of Hawaii or the haka but to remind schools of
the policy.

"I respect the cultural relevance of it. I think it represents
the Polynesian culture and I respect that," he said.

But he wants to make certain the haka doesn't offend opposing
teams or fans like it did last year. A conference team called
Benson to tell him that Hawaii's dance, which includes a slashing
motion across the throat, was directed at them. The referee at the
game at Aloha Stadium also indicated to Benson that he was not
comfortable with the performance.

Benson then advised Hawaii not to perform the haka until an
opposing team is in the locker room, and the Warriors complied.
That is, until Saturday.

He also spoke with Jones on Monday and said, "I believe we're
on the same page."

"I conveyed to him that I was not in any shape or form trying
to eliminate it," Benson said. "But rather than risk any chance
of future penalty or conflict, why not do it when the other team is
in their locker room? I'm anticipating that will be the case in the
future."