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On February 5, 2012, M.I.A. performed as a guest of Madonna during her Super Bowl halftime performance. During her brief time on stage, M.I.A. flipped off the camera for a split second.

At the time, it was unclear whether or not she would be forced to pay a fine, but neither NBC (the network that aired the Super Bowl) nor the FCC ended up taking action against her, and the matter seemed to go away. Now, from documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, more details surrounding the quietly but continuously unfolding case have emerged. The NFL is demanding that M.I.A. pay $1.5 million (with a public apology) for her seconds-long middle finger.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the NFL began taking legal action on March 13, 2012, filing at the American Arbitration Association. Despite silence from NBC and the FCC on the issue, the NFL called the middle-finger an “offensive gesture” in its legal filings, “in flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl.”

The NFL says M.I.A.’s actions (in The Hollywood Reporter’s words) “breach[ed] her performance contract and tarnish[ed] its goodwill and reputation.” In M.I.A.’s original agreement with the NFL for the show, which they entered on January 30, 2012, M.I.A. had agreed to “acknowledge the great value of the goodwill associated with the NFL and the tremendous public respect and reputation for wholesomeness enjoyed by the NFL” and “ensure that all elements of [her] Performance, including without limitation [her] wardrobe, shall be consistent with such goodwill and reputation.” The league argued that M.I.A. breached the contract on purpose, giving the finger as a publicity stunt.

M.I.A. has been fighting the NFL behind the scenes for over a year. Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, M.I.A.’s legal team is planning to “go public with an explanation of how ridiculous it was for the NFL and its fans to devote such furor to this incident,” says her lawyer, Howard King, “while ignoring the genocide occurring in her home country and several other countries, topics she frequently speaks to.”

King says M.I.A. and her legal team are “planning an all-out assault on the NFL’s claims of being a brand devoted to high morals,” The Hollywood Reporter writes.

King continued:

Of course, the NFL’s claimed reputation for wholesomeness is hilarious in light of the weekly felonies committed by its stars, the bounties placed by coaches on opposing players, the homophobic and racist comments uttered by its players, the complete disregard for the health of players and the premature deaths that have resulted from same, and the raping of public entities ready to sacrifice public funds to attract teams…

King and M.I.A. are now enlisting fans’ help in their battle with the NFL. King told The Hollywood Reporter:

We encourage people to submit their examples of how the actions of the NFL, its stars, coaches, advertisers, broadcasters, team doctors and owners have damaged or destroyed any vestiges of any reputation for wholesomeness ever enjoyed by the NFL. These submissions, which we plan to use to bolster M.I.A’s defense, will help balance the playing field, as they very well could eliminate the burden of undertaking a formal survey of the history of unwholesome behavior, can be made to the M.I.A defense team by email to

A spokesperson for NFL told The Hollywood Reporter that any monetary damages the league takes from M.I.A. will be “donated to charity.”

[via pitchfork]



Drew Pierce

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