Thursday, January 28, 2010

The NFL will kill your grassroots fandom

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 7:03 PM

click to enlarge SHockey Way T-Shirt

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Now that the Saints are in the Super Bowl, Who Dats everywhere have to get ready for a seismic shift in the national perception of their team. They are no longer burdened by being one of the few franchises to never make it to the big game and they no longer must think of themselves as perennial losers. Oh, and all that wacky, local fandom that, over the all the years of losing has created some of the most memorable and inspiring fan-created Saints iconography? Yea, the NFL wants that dead.

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WWL is reporting that the NFL has sent cease-and-desist orders to a slew of local merchants selling merchandise with the words "Who Dat" or a black and gold fleur de lis. Per the WWL article:

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“I really thought the 'Who Dat' was something that belonged to the people more than to the Saints or to the NFL or anything else,” said Storyville co-owner Josh Harvey.

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According to NFL spokesman Dan Masonson, "Any unauthorized use of the Saints colors and other [marks] designed to create the illusion of an affiliation with the Saints is equally a violation of the Saints trademark rights because it allows a third party to 'free ride' by profiting from confusion of the team's fans, who want to show support for the Saints."

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Loyola Law School intellectual property professor Ray Arieaux said the ownership of 'Who Dat' may be a gray area.

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“Is there some unfair trade taking place because maybe the public does associate that with the Saints? The question is what does the public associate with 'Who Dat,'" Arieaux asked.

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And the NFL isn't the only company claiming ownership of the phrase.

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Yes it seems that the NFL is quick to jump into the fray when there's Super Bowl-type money to be made, claiming ownership of a phrase that most likely originated on the radio. After all, how else would you explain the NFL waiting until this post-season to start cracking down? Either the NFL doesn't watch its own games (unlikely) or didn't care about local merchants profiting off of Who Dat merchandise because the Saints were never that good to begin with (most likely).

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This also speaks to a much bigger issue that Who Dats everywhere should start to take into account. As beloved as the Saints are, and as wholesome and pure people would like to believe their connection to the town is, the team and the NFL are corporate entities in the business of making a profit.

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"But the Saints are different! They're the new America's team!" some might say. True, the connection that the Saints have with this city is unique, but that has more to do with the whims of mother nature and the teams' heartfelt response to relief efforts. And yes, the Saints and Carnival may be balancing the City budget, but that doesn't make this situation any different than any of the hard-luck teams that came before and the profit they generated (for themselves) after historic wins.

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And if you're still holding out judgment on this and think that the NFL will look past their greedy corporatims for the sake of the fans, realize that their is a precedent for such actions. Just look at the Boston Red Sox and how they treated their long-suffering fan base after winning their first World Series in almost 100 years. Touching, really.

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