As the New Orleans Saints get ready to take the field in their first SuperBowl on February 6th in Miami, the game is not the only battle that has the Who Dat Nation talking. The National Football League, who claims to be the owner of the “Who Dat” phrase, has sent cease and desist letters to retailers, including mom and pop shops, who are selling merchandise with the “Who Dat” phrase. The NFL claims that such sales would cause confusion among Saints fans about whether such merchandise is officially licensed by the NFL.
However, the ownership of the “Who Dat” phrase may not be so clear cut. Sal and Steve Monistere, who recorded a version of “When the Saints Go Marching In” in the early eighties incorporating the “Who Dat” chant, claim that they are the owners of the phrase.
The NFL’ s actions have caused an outrage among football fans, business owners and politicians alike. It has even prompted Senator David Vitter, R-La., to issue a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging the NFL to take back its position. Senator Vitter claims he will sell his own shirts with the “Who Dat” phrase and even challenged the NFL to sue him if he did so. Senator Vitter’s letter states that:
“The “Who Dat?” trademark” 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.”
To view Senator Vitter’s letter to the NFL, click here.