clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Haka in Bryant-Denny Stadium Causes a Stir

Yesterday, I posted a picture of a few Hawai'i players giving the finger to our student section while performing a haka. Apparently, the incident is causing a bit of a stir and was mentioned in Atlanta Journal Constitution, though it lacks the part about the finger. There is a bit about it at the end of this AP article as well. The article, of course, paints Alabama as a bunch of intolerant, hostile rednecks:

Hawaii found out quickly that the Bama crowd didn't have a taste for island culture.

Before kickoff, the Warriors gathered in front of the Alabama student section and performed a traditional Polynesian dance as "Sweet Home Alabama'' played over the loudspeakers. The boos nearly drowned out Lynyrd Skynyrd.

First of all, at the very worst, the boos could only be described as a light smattering. They weren't even close to drowning anything out (this reporter has clearly never been around for a game against Tennessee or Auburn.) They did the haka about 15-20 minutes before kickoff (Alabama had already returned to their dressing room) and the stadium wasn't even full at that point:

As I mentioned in the comments section of my previous post:

There were some boos but they were far from drowning the PA out. I don't think 80% of the stadium knew what was going on. None of the three people with me knew what was going on. I saw it, but only because I read about it beforehand and was on the lookout for it.

To me, it's just another lazy writer taking things out of context. The haka is a short dance, this version on YouTube by the New Zealand All Blacks clocks in at 49 seconds. The booing did not start immediately, I personally believe it was in reaction to "the finger." Even with what little booing was going on, the whole episode went largely unnoticed in my section.

Like I said, to me, it's lazy journalism falling back on an old stereotype. From what I can tell, the Hawai'i fans felt incredibly welcome in Alabama. Here are some quotes I pulled from the message boards.

From a thread called Thank You Alabama:

Wow! I don't think I have ever been treated with more class, more courtesy, and more warmth than by the Alabama fans. From Thursday to Sunday, everywhere UHWarrior and I went it was nothing but positive. - CoachKen
Coach Ken, you said it right, [the] Alabama faithful have shown us a real good time, I hope they can make it to the islands for a game so we can show our gratitude! - Nalo born now an ATLien
Like I said before that was probabably the best tailgate experience I've had...I think we should all email our respective AD's to try and make this game happen more often. - Kobayashi

From another thread:

The stadium was a city within the city. We felt very welcomed and never threatened. It was fun watching the Bama fans support their team. It was also interesting to observe the silence in the stadium during the last quarter as our boys grabbed Bama's undivided attention. Bama is serious about their football and so are we.

The game was great, the fans were awesome and I can now say I have experience true southern hospitality. - Beowulf213

Warren St. John put things in perspective over at The House Rock Built:

[The loud booing] might be a bit of an overstatement. Sweet Home Alabama was playing (as usual) for much of the pregame; it wasn't played on top of the haka on purpose. And the only booing I heard was the usual BDS welcome from a few of the rowdies in the student section when Hawai'i ran onto the field. It wasn't haka specific. And on the boo-at-Bryant Denny scale (Phil Fulmer's 2005 entrance being a 10 and La. Monroe being a 1) I'd put the Rainbow Warriors welcome at a 2. It was a pretty friendly affair actually. Although I did see a pic circulating of a Rainbow Warrior giving the finger to the fans during the haka.... maybe he was reacting to the crowd, dunno. Having spent a lot of time in New Zealand, and as a fan of the occasional All Black game, I'm very pro Haka myself...

I too have been to New Zealand, have seen the All Blacks play and am "pro Haka." For some perspective on the Haka's place in sport, I emailed a friend from New Zealand that's a big rugby fan and asked him about the situation at Bryant-Denny. He said he'd never seen anyone do a haka facing the other team's fans (he said New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and others all do Hakas before rugby games and that the teams will simultaneously perform hakas to each other.) He said if a Haka is done pregame, it is done towards the other team, and if it's done post-game, then it is done towards their own fans as a tribute to them.

It just irks me to be painted as intolerant by lazy journalists who apparently have little to no idea about what they're writing about. From what I can tell, Hawai'i fans felt very welcomed and many want to see the series continue because of the warmth and camaraderie between fans.

For what it's worth, The Honolulu Star Bulletin reported before the game that the Haka wouldn't be done in Alabama.