The Māori Party has condemned former All Black Byron Kelleher’s sports bar, “The Haka Corner”, claiming it disrespects Māori culture. The Māori-themed bar is set to open in Kelleher’s residence of Toulouse, France.
The bar has come under fire for creating an online haka challenge, promoted on Kelleher and the Haka Corner’s Facebook pages.
Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell claimed Kelleher is exploiting Māori culture, particularly criticising the use of the traditional war cry to encourage alcohol consumption.
“To make money associating drinking alcohol with Māori people is completely unacceptable and shows no credibility or integrity … The social statistics around Māori and drinking are not good and this is not appropriate.”
Flavell said the move is “blatant piggy-backing off Māori culture” and Kelleher’s behaviour “is out of order”.
Founder of the Manaia Maori Performing Arts Company, Lionel Anderson, also questioned the bar’s appropriateness in an interview with Maori TV.
Anderson said the haka is “quite identifiable overseas” and Kelleher “can market and promote that as [he sees] fit”.
In a statement, the Haka Corner rejected criticisms, claiming the bar was designed to share New Zealand’s rugby culture with French fans. “French people are really respectful towards New Zealand roots, [they] love haka and All Blacks spirit.”
Former co-leader of the Māori Party, Pita Sharples, also criticised the challenge, calling Kelleher’s behaviour disappointing.
“Kelleher is not a Māori and should not really be doing this. It is an insult to our culture,” said Sharples. “A lot of the other All Blacks will not like it either because they respect the haka greatly. It is fair enough to cash in on the rugby, but not in this way.”