Chalk one up for tailgaters and true football fans everywhere. The greed and avarice shown by the National Football League has been beaten back by regular folks who showed commitment, solidarity and guts to take on the mighty NFL. The result? The National football League was forced to back down from their stance and issued a backpedaling statement with their tail between their legs.
You’re probably asking yourself, “what the hell are you talking about?”. We’re talking about the NFL claiming it owns the licencing rights to the cheer and term “Who Dat?” that has become synonymous amongst New Orleans Saints fans.
Once it was determined that the New Orleans Saints would be going to Miami for their very first Super Bowl, local merchants in the New Orleans area were issued cease and desist orders from the NFL urging them to discontinue the sale of merchandise that contained the term “Who Dat?”. The NFL Claimed it owned the term “Who Dat?” and any merchandise that was not officially licenced by the NFL containing “Who Dat?” would be subject to legal action. As you can imagine, small business owners that are selling this merchandise already know the NFL can afford a team of high priced lawyers and a court battle with the NFL is probably not a fight they want to fight.
(Funny how the NFL only was concerned with this potential copyright and licencing infringement only when the Saints were headed to the Super Bowl. Why didn’t the NFL feel the need to pull this stunt when the Saints were 13-0 and undefeated? Does the NFL claim to own the licencing rights of people wearing bags over their heads and the term the “New Orleans A’ints?”)
The merchants and fans claimed “Who Dat” was public domain and that the fans and the people of New Orleans owned it. Unfortunately for the NFL and whatever brainiac that thought it was a good idea to pick a fight with the entire city of New Orleans, the merchants didn’t just roll over because they got a letter from the big, bad NFL. These merchants organized themselves and aligned themselves with the fans. And once that happened the NFL stood no chance.
So what happened? Blame the internet and the power of social networking for bringing the NFL to their knees on this one. A FaceBook Fan Page entitled The Who-Dat Nation WILL NOT buy “Who-Dat” Merchandise licensed by the NFL was created and grew to almost 800 members in two days. (A quick glance at the page this evening and it has close to 2,700 members now.) With this kind of support in such a short amount of time you can imagine the backlash a fan would receive if they were caught wearing an officially licenced NFL “Who Dat?” shirt.
Oh, you mean the NFL could stand to lose its shirt on Saints gear that was printed specifically for Super Bowl XLIV? You mean this boycott was so strong that the NFL was looking at thousands of t-shirts that would be set off to Haiti in a week?
Then the big wigs started to come out in support of the fans on this issue. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, Congressman Charlie Melancon and Saints head coach Sean Payton are all weighed in on the controversy. All were in support of the term “Who Dat” belonging to the people and not the NFL. Vitter went as far as to composed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging the NFL “to drop this obnoxious and legally unsustainable position”. Vitter even thumbed his nose at the NFL and told them straight up in his letter,
“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.”
Cut to the chase, the NFL dropped their ridiculous cease and desist order and backpedaled away from their original position. The NFL claimed it is challenging the sale of items only “when those products contained or are advertised using other trademarks or identifiers of the Saints.” Basically they backed off and saved face by saying any “Who Dat” merchandise needs to be generic and not contain Saints logos or reference the Saints in any way. Big difference between that position and claiming they own the copyright on “Who Dat”. to borrow for Shaquille O’Neal I think the fans of New Orleans just asked the NFL, Tell Me How My Ass Tastes?
So what is the lesson we as tailgating nation can learn from Who Dat Nation? Accurately targeted action along with complete solidarity will get results. It didn’t hurt that some high powered Senators and Congressmen got involved but that just shows the magnitude this controversy exploded to.
When the NFL starts taking away your tailgating times and shortens the time the gates are open, are you just going to roll over and take it or will you have the balls to organize a boycott? Saints fans have provided you all with a blueprint on how to get the NFL’s attention and get results. It is up to all of us to come together and come up with creative ways to save our tailgating times and preserve this lifestyle we have grown to love.
Memo to the National Football League: Sesame Street just called. They are claiming they own the letters N, F and L and would like to issue a cease and desist order and have you stop using them effectively immediately. This message was brought to you by the letters W-H-O-D-A-T.