The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Who Dat? It’s Dem NFL Lawyers Comin’ Ta Getcha!

Posted by demkid on February 1, 2010

Since it’s Super Bowl week, I thought this story seemed particularly appropriate.  The New Orleans Saints are making their first ever appearance in the game (they started playing in 1966), and naturally, their fans are going crazy.  Some Saints fans are trying to make a little money off of their team’s new found success, and how can you blame them?  They should take full advantage of something that’s never happened before, and may not happen again for another 44 years!  Unfortunately, the NFL draws the line when it feels like one of their legal trademarks is being infringed upon.  The interesting thing here, though, is that it isn’t exactly clear who owns the traditional Saints cheer, “Who Dat?”

The Colts, perhaps?

“Who Dat” is the shortened version of the chant, “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints” and apparently has been widely marketed in New Orleans since the 1980s.  The two words themselves likely came about in late 19th-century minstrel shows, and two longtime Saints fans (who are brothers) claim to have the only federal trademark, after they produced a song in 1983 with Aaron Neville and several Saints players.  The NFL claims that they’re only trying to exclude uses of Who Dat when it’s used in combination with other Saints trademarks.  That position may seem reasonable, but the perceived overreaching of the NFL to protect two words that many believe are owned by the city and the people of New Orleans, has pulled some elected representatives into the fray:

Two members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation — Republican Sen. David Vitter and Democratic congressman Charlie Melancon — took public umbrage at the NFL. Vitter wrote NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, urging the league to concede that “Who Dat” is in the public domain. Otherwise, Vitter said he will print and sell T-shirts with “WHO DAT say we can’t print Who Dat!” on them. “Please either drop your present ridiculous position or sue me,” Vitter wrote.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said it is “unfortunate that the NFL is exploiting a phrase that has been part of Louisiana’s culture for more than a century. Who Dat Nation deserves better. I am exploring several options to sack the NFL’s greediness, including removing the league’s tax exempt status.”

Even Governor Jindal is getting involved, and has asked the state attorney general to look into a possible lawsuit over the ownership rights of the popular phrase.  I’d love to see Senator Vitter selling t-shirts outside of the Superdome, but with all of the backlash against the NFL on this issue, I don’t think that will happen.  Of course, the easiest way for this controversy to vanish is if the Colts win on Sunday.  However, if the Saints pull off their first Super Bowl victory, you can bet there will be a lot of merchandise being sold with “Who Dat” that will cause the legal wrangling to continue. 

Who am I for in Super Bowl XLIV?  Well, since I’ll be in the Big Easy a mere 6 days after the game to “Laissez les bon temps rouler,” you know I’m going to say, Geaux Saints!! (Can I put that on a t-shirt?)


6 Responses to “Who Dat? It’s Dem NFL Lawyers Comin’ Ta Getcha!”

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  2. demkid said

    Glad we could be of service!

  3. fgross said

    Yeahhhhh Saints!!! WHoooDattt?? Dats Who!!!!

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