New Orleans Saints: Much Ado About "Who Dat?"

Patrick Generose@PatrickGenCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2010

From the bayous to the bays, Saints fans' rally cry of "Who dat?  Who dat?  Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" is following Saints mania as it parades around the country.

Unfortunately, the NFL has a big problem with this.

I'll touch on that later, but first I'd like to shed some light on the origins of "Who Dat?" and how it came to be.

Dave Walker of The Times Picayune wrote a great piece on "Who Dat?" history and here's some of what he researched:

"Who Dat?" has its roots in the old minstrel and vaudeville acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

A song called "Who Dat Say Chicken in dis Crowd," with lyrics by black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, was featured in Edward E. Rice's "Summer Nights," "a vaudeville entertainment" of the late 1890s, according to the book "Ragged But Right: Black Traveling Shows, 'Coon Songs,' and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz" by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff. 

The phrase later moved through Hollywood and major jazz acts into the 30s but stayed dormant until the late 70s and early 80s.

It was around this time that two south Louisiana high schools, Patterson and St. Augustine, both laid claim to bringing back the "Who Dat?" chant that we know so well today.

That debate still rages on.

The origins of "Who Dat?" are shaky at best but there's no debate where the phrase ended up and where it's staying. 

"Who Dat?" as Saints fans know it was created by South-Louisianans for everyone to use when cheering on the "Bless You Boys," as some call them around these parts.

But apparently the No Fun League has a problem with Saints fans having fun at the expense of "Who Dat?" without its almighty and powerful consent.

Lauren Thom, owner of Fleurty Girl , a t-shirt shop in uptown New Orleans, was issued a cease and desist letter, banning her from selling t-shirts with "Who Dat?" on them.

Spokesman for the NFL, Greg Aiello, released this statement regarding the phrase:

"If WHO DAT is used in a manner to refer to Saints football, then we own trademark rights to it." 

In a nutshell, the NFL doesn't want anyone profiting off a product they feel directly relates to the Saints if they're not getting a cut.

Since WWLTV-New Orleans first reported on this, they have since done several follow-ups and the issue has generated a lot of commotion in the Big Easy.

The city is so up in arms over the atrocity that even local politicians have taken to galvanizing the masses.

Here's an excerpt from Senator David Vitter's letter to Roger Goodell:

" I was stunned to learn recently that the NFL is taking the position that it owns the exclusive trademark of the term "Who Dat" and has even threatened legal action against some mom-and-pop merchants selling T-shirts using the term.

I would urge you to drop this obnoxious and legally unsustainable position and instead agree that "Who Dat" is in the public domain, giving no one exclusive trademark rights.

This letter will also serve as formal legal notice that I am having T-shirts printed that say "WHO DAT say we can't print Who Dat!" for widespread sale in commerce. Please either drop your present ridiculous position or sue me."

Ha! Take that!

And Congressman Charlie Melancon has even started his own petition to, "tell [the NFL] that 'WHO DAT' belongs to the Who Dat nation!"

Even Sean Payton weighed in on the fiasco.

"The people who are running these small businesses, I think we're fans of those people," said Payton.  "I don't think anyone can own Who Dat, personally. I think it's for everyone to enjoy."

The NFL is a business and often times can't see past the bottom line, even if that means stepping on some of its loyal followers along the way.

Well New Orleanians have been getting stepped on all their lives, and they're tired of it.

The Saints are a perfect representation of that attitude, since they've also had it rough for much of their history.

I know it's been beaten to death and will continue to be until the Super Bowl, but the point can't be driven home hard enough:

People who aren't from New Orleans will never understand just how much the Saints mean to us, especially over the last five years.

When Drew Brees and Sean Payton came here after the storm when no one else would and dedicated themselves to the city, it meant more.

When they put us on their backs and carried us to Chicago that same season for our first chance at making it to the Super Bowl, it meant more.

When they had the chance to accomplish that same goal this year but in front of a home crowd, it meant more. 

And when they finally made it to the Super Bowl, it meant more.

Every time the Saints take the field, they carry the hopes, dreams, and salvation of an entire region with them.

Their accomplishments can't be minimized or condensed into traditional sports history.

Even if someone tried, Saints fans wouldn't allow it.

So good luck, Roger Goodell.  I'd rather face a room full of attorneys than wage a battle against the Who Dat Nation.

See, I'm member of that nation.  And I know what he's in store for.

Who Dat say dey gonna beat "Who Dat?"  Certainly not the NFL.


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