why do they say who dat in new orleans
The Times-Picayune is marking the tricentennial of New Orleans with its ongoing 300 for 300 project, running through 2018 and highlighting the moments and people that connect and inspire us. Today, the series continues with the adoption by the New Orleans Saints fan base of the "Who Dat" chant. THEN : It was fall 1983, and as part of a prep sports preview package for WVUE-TV, sports anchor Ken Berthelot and photographer Avis Landry captured video of the St. Augustine High School Purple Knights football team engaging in a daily pre-practice chant. Meant to psych the team up, it went, "Who dat?! Who dat?! Who dat talk about beatin' St. Aug? " When WVUE sports director Ron Swoboda saw it, he knew they had something special. "I thought, 'I love this cheer. We've got to play this a few times during the week,'". The package first aired on Sept. 1, 1983. It was immediately clear that Swoboda wasn't the only one taken with it. Three days later, it could be heard echoing through the Superdome for the New Orleans Saints' home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals. It has yet to cease. NOW : Since that 1983 season, cries of "Who Dat?! " have become a key part of Saints fan culture, with opposing teams being showered by it routinely. , Saints quarterback Drew Brees codified its game-day usage with the introduction of what has become a pre-game ritual: After the coin toss, a pre-determined player or guest will raise his or her hand over their head on the field. When they drop their hand, that's the cue for everyone in the Superdome to launch into three thundering rounds of the "Who Dat" chant. TRI-via The use of "Who Dat" as a cheer at athletic events predates the 1983 WVUE story by as much as a decade. Although its origin is murky, Nicholls State University English professor Shana Walton, who led a research team hired by the NFL, said in 2010 that the chant was being used in the early 1970s by majority-black schools in South Louisiana. The phrase "Who Dat" in a non-athletic context can be traced back further, to the 1890s and a song called "Who Dat Say Chicken in Dis Crowd," a song from Edward E. Rice's vaudeville show "Summer Nights. " In the 20
century it was part of a vaudeville and minstrel show comedy bit in which one character would ask, "Who dat? ," with another responding, "Who dat say, 'Who dat? '" Near the end of the 1977 comedy "Smokey and the Bandit," after Burt Reynolds' character raises Jackie Gleason's lawman character on the radio, Gleason responds -- clear as day -- with the words, "Who dat? " In 1983, broadcaster Sal Monistere heard the Who Dat chant at the Superdome and got the idea of turning it into a song that could be played on the radio.
Recruiting Aaron Neville to do the singing, they recorded the song "Who Dat? " at First Take recording studio, owned by Monistere's brother. It became a local hit. The "Who Dat" chant on that recording was done by five Saints players -- Dave Waymer, Brad Edelman, John Hill, Reggie Lewis and Louis Oubre -- performing as "The Singing Saints. " Neville, a longtime Saints fan, didn't have to be asked twice to participate. "It (was) a no-brainer," Neville said in 2010. "I had been with the Saints since the late '60s when they used to come see me and my brothers. It was a special treat for me being in with some of the Saints, doing the 'Who dat? ' cheer. " The song was a sign of the general optimism surrounding the Saints' 1983 campaign, after having just missed out on making the playoffs a year earlier. The "Snake" referred to in the lyrics is former Saints quarterback Kenny "The Snake" Stabler, and "Bum" is a reference to head coach Bum Phillips. Since the 1981 season, fans of the Cincinnati Bengals have been using a similar chant, replacing "Who Dat" with "Who Dey? " But that's stupid. N. O. DNA In New Orleans, "Who Dat" isn't just a cheer. It's a greeting. It's an exclamation of joyous approval. It's an expression of black-and-gold loyalty and civic pride, all wrapped up in one. It's also become a part of the New Orleans identity. The NFL found that out the hard way when, shortly after the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl victory, it attempted to claim as its own the trademark to the phrase. Pushback from the Who Dat Nation was swift and strong. The NFL eventually backed off. As U. S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson) said at the time, "If the NFL owns 'Who Dat,' then a football is round. No matter how hard they try, nobody can dispute the power and energy of the Who Dat Nation. " By: Mike Scott, staff writer Sources: The Times-Picayune archive; staff research NEXT: More on 300 for 300: Nominate a person or event for inclusion in the "300 for 300" series: During pro football season, New Orleans becomes " 'Who Dat' Nation. " Fans open New Orleans Saints games with the signature chant and use it to rattle the eardrums of opponents during play.
Since the Saints' Super Bowl win in 2010, the phrase has popped up everywhere, from T-shirts to business names. Even people who don't watch football call themselves "Who Dats. " But a messy legal question keeps rearing its head here: Who owns "Who Dat"? On Saints game day, the square mile around the Superdome is all tailgaters в and they take their "Who Dat" rallying cry very seriously. It's basic vocabulary around here, explains Mike Stieger. "We've been 'who-dattin' the whole time," he says. "We been saying it for years, and, yeah, we own "Dat" в the people of New Orleans, La. " "Who Dat" Say They Own "Who Dat" All the tailgaters here agree: New Orleans owns "Who Dat," they say. And they do, of course, have the right to scream it or write it on homemade signs. What they can't do, says Who Dat Inc. , is sell anything that says "Who Dat. " Who Dat Inc. is brothers Steve and Sal Monistere of San Antonio. The Texans trademarked "Who Dat" in 1983, when they featuring Aaron Neville and the Singing Saints. It was part of an '80s trend of football players singing в remember the Chicago Bears' " "? Five years later, the Saints and the NFL also tried to trademark "Who Dat. " And it wasn't that big of a deal в until the Saints made it to the Super Bowl in 2010. That's when the NFL started to go after royalties for "Who Dat. " Who Dat Inc. then sued the NFL, saying it claimed the phrase first. Shana Walton, a professor of language and literature at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. , researched the history of the phrase in preparation for the lawsuit. "We can trace 'Who Dat' all the way back to the 1700s, in newspapers in Colonial America," she says, when it was a derogatory way to represent African-American speech. It then became a point of pride, and "Who Dat" became part of high school football chants в across racial lines в as early as the 1960s.
Take a school team called the Lumberjacks, with the chant, "Who dat, who dat gonna beat 'dem Jacks? " Walton says. "You can look back in their old yearbooks and see that big and proud. " There's no doubt, Walton says, that the phrase comes from grass-roots culture and is in the public domain. Lawsuits And Cease And Desist Letters But because Who Dat Inc. and the NFL settled out of court, a judge never put that into law. And while the NFL has backed off the issue, Who Dat Inc. has not. In October, it filed a new lawsuit, this time against two T-shirt-makers. Dinah Payne, a management professor at the University of New Orleans, says the company has to stay in court to show it is serious about its claim. "If they don't pursue their right to exclusively use that word, then over time they're gonna lose that right," Payne says. Some businesses do pay royalties to Who Dat Inc. , from a few cents up to thousands of dollars for things like broadcasting the "Who Dat" chant, which the company claims as original lyrics, or printing the phrase on a custom T-shirt. The company sends cease and desist letters to those who don't pay. After brushes with the trademark claim, Blake Haney, who runs an apparel company called Dirty Coast, no longer carries anything tagged "Who Dat" in his shop. "Which means we're leaving some money on the table, but it also means that everything we sell that's Saints-oriented is our own creation," he says, like a T-shirt depicting the Superdome as a church, topped with a steeple of the Saints' logo, a fleur-de-lis. Around New Orleans, just the word "dat" alone is now a thing. You can buy a baby onesie that says "Poo Dat," visit an urban farm called Grow Dat or step up to the We Dat food truck on game day, where Greg Tillery sells shrimp tacos and po-boy sandwiches. How would he feel if he got a letter demanding he change the name of his truck, or pay up? "They gotta do what they gotta do," he says, laughing. But, he adds, Saints fans and New Orleanians will always feel they own "Who Dat," no matter who comes calling for a royalty payment.
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