Who are the Kukui Kings?
More recent students and graduates of Kukui High School may not be familiar with the “Kukui Kings.” The Kings were the original name of our football team, dating back to when it was formally established in 1959.
The Kings’ rise to prominence in regional and state football championships took several years, and — like most football programs — had its ups and downs. Rival teams, such as the Piikoi Scorpions, took to mocking the Kings as the “Kukui Nuts.” It didn’t take long for KHS to claim the nickname as a point of pride, and after a contentious overtime game against the Macadamia Academy team in 1980, KHS even declared itself the “King of the Nuts.”
When the Kukui Kings took several consecutive state championships, headlines would trumpet, “Go Nuts!”
Then, beginning in the early 1990s, there was a movement sweeping across the country to rebrand sports teams whose names and mascots were considered disrespectful or mocking of indigenous peoples and icons. Activists on the Mainland demanded that the Washington Redskins in the NFL and the Cleveland Indians in the MLB change their names. Similarly, some in Honolulu called for the retirement of the “Kukui Kings” and its warrior king mascot.
After several meetings and rallies organized by the KHS Student Council, the KHS Alumni Association, and other community groups, the Kukui High School administration conducted a vote in 1996 to choose a new name and mascot for the school. Contenders included the mongoose, and even the flying cockroach. But in terms of symbols, the simple and hardy kukui nut had been a sentimental favorite through decades of school history. The “Fighting Nuts” (or simply the “Nutz”) was the resounding winner.
Although the “Fighting Nuts” have been warmly embraced by school and sports fans everywhere, you’ll still find long-time friends of KHS refer to the “Kukui Kings.” Whatever you call them, be sure to cheer for them this season!