Do you remember Super Bowl XLVI and in particular the halftime show? The NFL does. You can bet singer-rapper M.I.A. does too. As an estimated 114 million people were watching her and Madonna perform, M.I.A. flipped the middle finger to one of the biggest audiences in television history. She also mouthed "I don't give a **** and all of it was caught on camera albeit only for a second. It was a "if you blinked, you missed it" moment. And unlike the Janet Jackson incident in Super Bowl XXXVIII, there wasn't much of an uproar. In fact, the FCC decided not to pursue any action and NBC which aired SB XLVI wasn't fined. It seemed as if the whole incident would be forgotten.
But the NFL did not forget. In fact, league officials were very angry. They were so angry that the NFL went to arbitration last year seeking $1.5 million in damages stating M.I.A. breached her contract and tarnished the league's wholesome reputation. If you're thinking the league could have withheld her perfformance fee, well that was out of the question as the NFL does not pay the artists who sing at the Super Bowl, the thinking being that the exposure to a huge audience is enough compensation.
The two sides tried to negotiate a settlement, however, the NFL continued its attempts to have M.I.A. held liable before moving to a trial. This has not sat well with M.I.A. and she has decided to go public with her fight against the league. Her lawyer tells the Hollywood Reporter, "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."
You can see where this is heading and it's not good.
The NFL says M.I.A. breached her contract by not paying the league the proper respect and by not adhering to an agreement ensuring that her act would not go over the top or produce any wardrobe malfunctions. While she didn't go to the extreme of Ms. Janet, M.I.A.'s people say she got caught up in the moment and that is the reason why she flipped the bird.
No matter, the NFL wants M.I.A. to pay, but if you're aware of her reputation, the singer is not one to back down from a fight or to keep silent. Her lawyer adds, "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…"
This is a fight that will probably go the distance. If the two sides could not reach an agreement dating back to last year, there's certainly no evidence that it's going to be settled any time soon. Expect this conflict to get very ugly before all is said and done. And now that it's gone public, that's not in the best interests of the NFL either.