Sports fans should take a look at a recent article in The Onion. The satirical magazine announces that the New York Yankees have trademarked the phrase, “Yankees Suck.” It would be even funnier if the most recent move by the NFL were not true, and equally ridiculous.
This week, the National Football League sent cease and desist orders to New Orleans vendors selling merchandise emblazoned with the famed Saints rally cry, “Who Dat.” The NFL claims ownership of this phrase due to its association with the Saints franchise.
US Senator David Vitter (R-LA) responded to Roger Goodell with a cease and desist letter of his own. Declaring that the phrase “Who Dat” belongs to the people of New Orleans. Sen Vitter requested that the NFL sue him for printing shirts with the phrase “Who Dat say we can’t print Who Dat!”
This morning, the league backed off its original threat of litigation, however, the NFL feels that the question of ownership remains unresolved.
Friday’s Times Picayune article included a reprint of an advertisement for an 1898 E.E. Rice play. This ad displayed the song title “Who Dat Say Chicken In Dis Crowd.” Are we, as fans, to believe that a governing body in professional sports can own turns of phrase ingrained in a local culture since before the turn of the century?
Today’s Fifth Down blog entry on the New York Times website describes the reaction from vendors and regular fans alike. “One crafty Twitter user created a shirt mocking the NFL on the Web site customink.com. In yellow lettering, the front of the black shirt reads: ‘Who exactly is it that states they are going to defeat the football team from New Orleans?’ The back taunts: ‘Cease and desist this.’”
At the heart of this fracas is the exclusive right to monetize words. Roger Goodell believes that two words first spoken by minstrels in the French Quarter more than 100 years ago are league property. What about Twitter users that post #whodat? What about blogs like WhoDatDish? One would think once they turn a profit, the NFL will go after them as well.
Saints fans deserve the right to display pride for their team without fear of repercussion by a league so greedy, they are willing to bite the hands of the fans that feed them.