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?