And you thought it was all about football and team spirit and the coming-true of grandiose dreams. Wrong! It's about the NFL capitalizing on every penny imaginable, even if that means sending "Cease and Desist" letters to mom-and-pop businesses trying to make a buck off of long-standing tradition.
From today's news accounts, however, the Who Dats are NOT going quietly into that good legal theorem. They're standing up, still accepting orders online, and taking ownership of this piece of southeast Louisiana heritage (I know this because I ordered a cute tee shirt that says "Supa*BEAUXL" from Fleurty-Girl.net yesterday afternoon!) . Let's just watch the Commish issue a warning for me to forsake my Who Dat gear. You can wrench my cute Who Dat tee-shirts from my cold, dead fingers!
One of our Senators has weighed in on the skirmish (in all fairness, however, I must admit that he's the Senator who's running for re-election and must be just soaking up all this free publicity!) I got this email a few minutes ago:
January 29, 2010
Roger Goodell, Commissioner
National Football League
280 Park Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Dear Commissioner 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.
"Who Dat" was probably first heard in New Orleans minstrel shows well over 130 years ago. Much more recently, but before it was used in connection with the Saints, it was used as a rallying cry by St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. In the 1980s it was adopted by Saints fans in a completely spontaneous way. Only later did any legal persons, including the Saints and the NFL, try to claim it through registration.
Perhaps more significant than this history, "Who Dat" has become part of New Orleans and Louisiana popular culture. For the NFL to try to claim exclusive ownership of it would be like me registering and trying to claim exclusive ownership of the terms "lagniappe" and "laissez les bons temps rouler!"
Under Paul Tagliabue's leadership, the NFL was an unbelievable partner in helping us recover and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Thank you again. We look forward to your dropping your "Who Dat" position so that this partnership can continue without strain or blemish.
Junior Senator of Who Dat Nation
I kinda like one new shirt that says, "Who could it be that asserts it will prevail in its upcoming sporting contest over the New Orleans professional football team?" on the front and "Take Dat!" on the back. Heh.
UPDATE: The NFL has seen the light! Dat's right!