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The New Orleans Saints Logo Has a Dark History Involving Slavery
Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini

The National Football League is full of franchises with iconic team logos. More so than the NBA, MLB and NHL, NFL teams have the most recognizable symbols. The Green Bay Packers have their G. The Falcons and Ravens have their dirty birds. Jacksonville has their Jaguars, New York has their Big Blue and the Vikings and Texans have their horns.

The New Orleans Saints team has…well, whatever the heck that thing is.

Old gold Saints fans have been rocking the NFC and yelling “Who Dat?” since the Saints’ inception. Few sports teams and sports logos have more visibility than the Saints football team logo, but many people don’t know what the symbol means.

What is the logo of the Super Bowl XLIV champions, the New Orleans Saints, and how did they get it?

What is the New Orleans Saints Logo?

The New Orleans Saints logo is a fleur-de-lis. ‘Fleur’ and ‘lis’ are French for ‘flower’ and  ‘lily,’ respectively.

It is a classic representation of a lily flower that has a long history pre-dating American football. It’s a symbol of beauty, hope and royalty. In the past two centuries, the fleur-de-lis has come to represent the people of New Orleans, as well.

The Saint’s colors are black, gold and white. New Orleans’ fleur-de-lis is always represented by some combination of these colors, though the exact logo design has changed throughout the franchise’s history (more on that in a moment).

Even in the NFL’s new, controversial “color rush” age of alternative uniforms, the Saints’ primary colors remain the same, as does their primary logo.

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Fleur-de-lis Throughout History

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The history of the fleur-de-lis goes way beyond New Orleans and even American history. The flower symbolized the French crown and the House of Bourbon long before it came to the states, which explains its connection with New Orleans French history.

Legend has it the first fleur-de-lis sprang from a tear shed by Eve as she left the Garden of Eden. Since then, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph have been pictured holding a fleur-de-lis, which is technically a type of lily.

The lily has become a symbol of the Boy Scouts and New Orleans here in the United States. From the New Orleans Pelicans uniforms to the flag of the Louisiana Creole People, it is a symbol that has come to represent the people of Louisiana. That’s why, when New Orleans got their first professional football team in the late ’60s, everyone south of Baton Rouge knew what the logo would be.

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The Symbol’s Controversial Past Involving Slavery

The fleur-de-lis symbol was actually used by slaveowners to mark slaves who ran away, according to USA Today, who spoke with slave historian Dr. Ibrahima Seck.

“He would be taken before a court and the sentence would be being branded on one shoulder and with the fleur-de-lis, and then they would crop their ears,” Seck said.

“As an African I find it painful, and I think people whose ancestors were enslaved here may feel it even harder than I do as an African.”

Obviously, the symbol doesn’t mean the same thing today. But it’s important to recognize how it was used in the past. Some have argued that the Saints should change their logo because of this.

New Orleans Logo History

The NFL franchise has rocked the fleur-de-lis since their 1967 season opener.

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The team was named after the jazz standard “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and jazz was born in New Orleans (sorry, Utah). The fleur-de-lis was then selected by the Saints’ first majority shareholder, John W. Mecom Jr., because the fleur was typically associated with Catholic saints. The logo has remained through all the different team owners, including the Benson family.

Though the symbol has remained the same, the details surrounding it have changed.

From 1967-1999, New Orleans’ fleur was all black with a thin, white outline. Archie Manning wore this logo. From 1967-1984, the fleur occasionally changed what it was inside of. At times, it was inside of a shield. At others, it was inside of a shield held by a cartoon football player named Sir Saint.

And still, at others, the fleur-de-lis sat alone, as we’re used to seeing it.

The basic fleur design has undergone four changes since 2000. Most of these design changes are slight updates on colors and borders. The current New Orleans Saints logo is a golden fleur (instead of black), triple outlined in black, white and black. Whenever the Saints go marching in under an alternate logo, that logo is the fleur inside of an outline of the state, or on a shield held by Sir Saint.

Maybe with Drew Brees finally retiring from the black and gold, he can become the new model for Sir Saint. I can’t think of a better matchup.

MORE: What Happened to Drew Brees’ Hair & How Did He Do It?

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Daniell Marlow is an LA-based freelance writer for Buzzfeed, ScreenRant, and FanBuzz.  He is a Georgia Bulldog with a California Shih-Tzu and a lover of all types of football. Daniell runs a travel blog when he's not covering the sports world. Feel free to give it a Google.
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