M.I.A. said she’s been subjected to a year and a half of legal harassment by the NFL since she extended a middle finger while performing alongside Madonna at the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in 2012.
About a month after the Super Bowl, the NFL took action with the American Arbitration Association, demanding $1.5 million from M.I.A. for breaching her performance contract and tarnishing the league’s reputation, according to documents obtained by the Hollywood Reporter and detailed in a story Friday.
Last week the league pushed for a resolution, asking she be deemed liable on summary judgment before going to trial.
The 38-year-old British-Sri Lankan singer was performing the song “Give Me All Your Luvin’” when she gave the audience and cameras the finger, and despite a brief delay NBC’s censors were unable to stop it from reaching a TV audience of more than 100 million. Though many viewers failed to notice it, pictures and commentary about the finger spread on social media and sparked a minor furor. Both the NFL and NBC issued apologies, and M.I.A. apologized to Madonna, who called the gesture overly negative for what was a positive night. The NFL’s legal filing said it was an “offensive gesture” made “in flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl.”
M.I.A. had been quiet about the legal wrangling that followed, but her attorney Howard King told the Hollywood Reporter she now plans to speak out against the league and its “ridiculous” actions.
“Of course, the NFL’s claimed reputation for wholesomeness is hilarious,” King said, “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.”
The NFL had no comment beyond saying in an emailed statement that its lawyers are handling the issue and any money it’s awarded would be given to charity.