Almost two years ago, in her appearance during Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show performance, M.I.A. briefly flipped off the camera. It’s pretty likely that you haven’t thought about that overblown flap in months, or that you’ve forgotten about it entirely. The NFL, however, has not forgotten. Less than two months after the big game, the league filed with the American Arbitration Association, demanding $1.5 million and a public apology from M.I.A. She hasn’t given them either, and the battle has been going on privately ever since. Today, it goes public.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, NFL lawyers have just moved to have M.I.A. “deemed liable for her actions” before moving to trial for damages. In legal documents, the league calls the finger an “offensive gesture… in flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl.”

M.I.A.’s lawyer Howard King says, “She is going to go public with an explanation of how ridiculous it was for the NFL and its fans to devote such furor to this incident, while ignoring the genocide occurring in her home country and several other countries, topics she frequently speaks to.” He also has harsh words for the league itself: “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.”

Before the halftime show, the league took measures to make sure nothing like the Janet Jackson nipple-flash would happen, and they entered into an agreement with M.I.A. The contract between them said that she would “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 would “ensure that all elements of [her] Performance, including without limitation [her] wardrobe, shall be consistent with such goodwill and reputation.”

So then the dispute is whether the middle finger was “consistent with such goodwill and reputation.” It’s an open question, certainly, but consider that anyone who can even slightly lip-read the stuff that coaches say after dubious calls has seen way worse than that stray middle finger.

For its part, the NFL has refused comment except to say that “any monetary damages for her actions would have been donated to charity.”

Uh, go Ravens?

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Comments (26)
  1. You’ve gotta be kidding me with what the lawyer said.

    “There’s bad things happening where she’s from, so she should be allowed to flip off the entire country with no repercussions.”

  2. This is laughable. The NFL really has such an issue with something that people did not even realize that it happened until all the pictures were up the next day. In the meantime, the NFL is one of the most unethical organizations when it comes to being respectful to the people involved.

  3. What she needed, obviously, was one of those big, foam “#1″ fingers like Miley Cyrus… oh, never mind.

  4. I fucking love it when famous people get all up in arms when they don’t receive the special treatment they feel they’re deserved.

    She flashed a middle finger during live television. If you do that, you get fined. Everybody knows this. It was a childish thing to do, and she–like any person would be–is expected to pay for it. Behaving like a princess does not make you exempt from the law.

    She could at least offer an apology, at least deliver a modium of class, but I suppose that’s just not /\/\ /\ Y /\’s style. Why on earth does anybody still like this brat?

  5. I’m sure it was only LONG after M.I.A. decided to perform at the superbowl half time show, collect a paycheck from the NFL, and unite their brand with hers, that she discovered “felonies committed by its stars, the bounties placed by coaches on opposing players, the homophobic and racist comments uttered by its players…” etc. A bigger hypocrite has never been born.

  6. yeah, so, the NFL cut a check to MIA for her to perform. at that time, they apparently had a meeting of the minds regarding the nature of her performance and the standard to which it would be held–to which she signed. she then breached the contract. i don’t think the arbitrator will spend more than 5 minutes on his/her reasoned opinion but will thank the Lord for the rest of the year that the NFL was stupid enough to contract MIA and MIA was stupid enough to give a half-assed middle finger.

  7. the collective monumental ego of the NFL pitted against the overblown ego of MIA

    two egos enter, only one leaves

  8. Matangi better be good because this is so annoying

  9. This is an ad hominem argument, whether or not the NFL is unethical has nothing to do with M.I.A.’s actions and the contract she signed.

  10. M.I.A don’t give a fuck.

  11. >Gives the most obscene gesture on national television to fans during the most broadcast time-slot of the year
    >Criticizes the NFL for being unethical after they try to punish her.
    This is textbook ad hominem.

    The FCC immediately enforced fines against the NFL for what happened, and now the NFL wants that money from MIA who I’m sure they lectured thoroughly (given the JT/Janet Jackson half-time fiasco) about pulling anything stupid.

    She knew she wasn’t supposed to do this, there’s nothing cool or “hardxcore f’ the man!” about performing during the half time of the Superbowl and giving the finger to the camera unless you’re 12 years old. If she had a problem with the ethics of the NFL, maybe she shouldn’t have performed on their biggest stage FOR FREE. She’s a moron if she didn’t think there would be repercussions for that.

    But here’s where I really am getting my knickers in a twist:
    Using another country’s genocide as an excuse to avoid responsibilities for her own actions is childish and offensive to everyone experiencing oppression. Her argument isn’t about protecting the welfare of others, its about her not wanting to admit she was a moron and paying out of pocket for it. Her fine is going to go to charity, if she really cares then she would try to make sure that money went to the peace core or aid for those in her genocide that shes complaining about, instead of pointing the finger at the NFL (here is a perfect opportunity for her to use her paper-plane money to help people.) By using the suffering of others as an excuse to avoid her own responsibilities she has lost all credibility in my book for being an honest activist and I think she should be ashamed of herself.

  12. “This girl Mike, I tell ya I’ve been watchin tape of this MIA all week, and she is a firecracker. I call her Chinese New Year, cuz when she lights that fire I tell ya, things blow up quick.”

  13. first cool thing to ever happen on a football field. (not counting underneath the bleachers.)

  14. I remember when this happened. It happened a few years after MIA was current.

  15. This is still news? O_o

    How could this possibly still even matter anymore?

  16. I don’t know why I’m commenting. But, I guess I might as well. 1.5 million dollars people. 1.5 MILLION. Is that not insane? Players get fined a fraction of that when they hit a guy so hard they end his career and leave the poor asshole with dementia at the ripe age of 45. So the price is too high. MIA should probably pay a fine of some sort, but only after a court finds her in breach of contract and even then the price will almost certainly go down after litigating. I’d fight this tooth and nail if I were her.

    As for MIA I think she’s kind of a boring egomaniac with the philosophical complexity of a jilted teenager that wears too much black. So fuck MIA too I guess. But fuck the NFL more. Everything is horrible. Sweet God.

    And does anyone even find “the finger” even remotely offensive at this point? No. They fucking don’t. Because who gives a shit about a middle finger.

    • What does the nature of the game have to do with MIA’s actions? NFL players know the risk they take when they step on the field. And the NFL doesn’t fine players for hurting people, they fine players for illegal plays. Injuries happen on legal hits and illegal hits, they have nothing to do with fines.

      The fact of the matter is, MIA agreed to do the Super Bowl halftime show. Without a doubt, the NFL told her over and over again what she can and can’t do and made her agree not to do anything she wouldn’t be allowed to do. She failed to live up to that and she’s paying the consequences. Its actually kind of disgusting how she’s trying to deflect this and use third world countries to help her get out of facing what she chose to do.

      In the grand scheme of things, is a middle finger a big deal? Of course not, and its stupid that it is such a big deal, but when you perform in front of millions and millions of people you can’t just do whatever you want and expect everyone to be okay with it.

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