SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Halftime at the next Sacramento Kings game is going to look a lot different next season.
Former Kings Dancers were caught off guard after the team announced a new “gender inclusive” group will be starting next season. The co-ed hip hop group called “The 916 crew” will replace the old dance team.
Leaders with the Sacramento Kings say this decision follows other teams in the league doing the same thing, most recently the Cleveland Cavaliers are “evolving” their dance crews.
Representatives with The Kings say they want to broaden their reach and create an inclusive environment for all.
Some former dancers are upset about the break in tradition. Former dancers including Kristi Matsunami say this is the end of an era.
She said, “It’s much more than dancing, you build this bond. I don’t think you can replace that part of history. It’s gone, and I think that’s the part we’re really sad about.”
She says the Sacramento Kings Dancers have influenced the fan experience for more than 30 years. She thinks their team could have been gender inclusive. She says men have been invited to try-out the past two years, but they have not made the team.
“Why couldn’t it be that you keep the traditional dance team and evolve and expand into a hip-hop crew?” Matsunami said.
Mom, Amie Molina, is also an NBA dancer. The Sacramento Kings “Classics” were created five years ago to encourage older women to get up and move, they too will be cut.
“I wanted to improve, I wanted to give the fans more,” Molina said.
Amie says this was the first time she’s been fired in almost 70 years. Despite this, she still has respect for the organization.
“They gave us something special, they did. The Kings gave us something that no one else had given us,” Amie said.
Former Dancer Daphnie Coon said, “It just made us seem undervalued.”
Coon said they learned about their replacements over a conference call last week.
“It feels like our dream wasn’t good enough, or it wasn’t validated,” Coon said.
When you say “gender inclusive” you may think that is about women, but this change is geared towards including men. The Kings said they would ideally like the team to be made up of half men and half women.
Some men we spoke with say they’d be interested in trying out.
“It’s my dream. I can’t say it’s every mans dream!” one said.
The hip hop crew will be run by a third party and will be made of both men and women. The goal is to partner with a local studio to manage the dancers.
The Kings provided CBS13 a statement in response to the former dancer’s concerns:
It reads, “First we want to thank the Sacramento Kings Dancers for their dedication and service to the team and the community. We are excited to see the entertainment team evolve as we work to broaden our reach and ensure an inclusive environment for all. The 916 Crew will perform synchronized, professional routines during Sacramento Kings games using a heavy emphasis on all the elements of hip-hop. This evolution builds on the long tradition of including dance in game entertainment and our entertainment team will continue to serve as ambassadors throughout the community.”
We are also told the incentive for this change is to broaden Kings reach and ensure an inclusive environment for all. Former dancers are invited to try out for the “916 Crew.” Their goal is to have equal representation of both men and women.