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Interview: Who Dat Trademark Holder Speaks Out on NFL

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2010-01-27-Whodat45COVER.jpgAs the Saints march toward the Super Bowl, there's a chill in the midst of the Who Dat Nation. The National Football League has issued cease and desist orders to various New Orleans merchants, including for infractions as small as a fleur de lis in the middle of the "o" in #whodat. When you're covering something this important to our city, you go to the source. As far as trade marks for WhoDat are concerned, that's Sal and Steve Monistere.

Steve recorded the Who Dat chant in 1983, and using that chant, he recorded the original "Who Dat" single with members of the Saints offensive line and singer Aaron Neville (photo of the original single above). Then, together, the Monistere brothers immediately embarked on one of the most ingenious marketing campaigns in sports history. And the Who Dat Nation was born.

Steve Monistere, a founding member of New Orleans party band The Topcats, read about the recent NFL actions regarding the use of Who Dat in my article on New Orleans.com. "I had heard about the cease and desist, and had seen this article," Monistere said. When reading the comments, he mentioned that "the third from the top is right on." That comment describes the Monistere's hit song and the registration for trademarks of Who Dat.

As far as the intellectual property, Monistere explains that, "Sure, a fleur de lis can belong to the Saints, but in very specific usage, and everybody knows what that is," Monistere explained. "If you go back to 1967, to date, they have registered and used the fleur de lis in a very specific way. They put it on the Saints helmet and on the Saints shield. Its colors are very specific -- they're old gold and black.

"But for the NFL to expand that definition and say that no matter what color and what style of fleur de lis, if you put it on an item, it means Saints, it is, as many believe, just not correct. The fleur de lis belongs to everyone including the people of New Orleans," Monistere said.

According to Sal Monistere, the Who Dat brand is viral. "It's gone global in a way that shows no sign of stopping," he said. "Our product sells everywhere, and it doesn't say Saints. All through the year, outside the football season, it's here in the shops and on the streets. Prior to 1983 when we first did the song people didn't' answer the door by saying "Who Dat?". But they do now. And they don't' answer by saying "Who Dat say de gonna beat dem Saints", they just say "Who Dat?". As we nurtured it, it acquired a secondary meaning.

"Who Dat transcends the Saints, it transcends football," Monistere said. Who Dat is New Orleans. The Fleur de lis is New Orleans. Experts from the intellectual property industry and numerous attorneys agree on this. For the NFL to come after that fleur de lis is absolutely ludicrous, and it's an insult to the people of New Orleans who love and support one of the NFL's greatest teams."

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