A Brief History of M.I.A. Versus the NFL

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The protracted legal battle over M.I.A. flipping the bird during the Super Bowl more than two years ago is still ongoing and now, the National Football League filed arbitration papers last week seeking an additional $15.1 million in restitution.

It’s the latest step in a remarkably petty witch hunt by the NFL. Here’s how it got to this point.


February 5, 2012: The New York Giants face off against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Madonna headlines the halftime show, accompanied by LMFAO, Cee Lo Green, a slackliner, Nicki Minaj, and M.I.A. During “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” M.I.A. gives the middle finger for less than a second. The Giants win, 21–17.

February 10, 2012: Madonna talks to Ryan Seacrest about the incident. “I understand it’s punk rock and everything, but to me there was such a feeling of love and good energy, and positivity, it seemed negative,” she says. “It’s such a teenager … irrelevant thing to do … there was such a feeling of love and unity there. What was the point?” Yes, Madonna, what is the point of needlessly provoking people for attention? Please tell us.

September 19, 2013: The Hollywood Reporter reveals that the NFL has been in an extended legal battle with the singer over the incident, bringing it back into the public consciousness about 17 months after everyone had forgotten about it. The league demands $1.5 million, claiming M.I.A. breached her contract.

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September 23, 2013: M.I.A. releases a video statement calling the situation “completely ridiculous.” She calls the NFL hypocritical for condemning her while simultaneously sexualizing young females. “They basically say it’s OK for me to promote being sexually exploited as a female, than to display female empowerment through being punk rock.”

March 17, 2014: The National Football League is demanding an additional $15.1 million dollars from M.I.A., bringing the grand total to $16.6 million.

The NFL has added an additional claim, seeking $15.1 million more in “restitution” as the alleged value of public exposure she received by appearing for an approximately two minute segment during Madonna’s performance. The figure is based on what advertisers would have paid for ads during this time. “The claim for restitution lacks any basis in law, fact, or logic,” say M.I.A.’s response papers, filed on Friday.

Sidenote: did you know that the National Football League is technically a non-profit with tax-exempt status? They pull in about $10 billion annually and commissioner Roger Goodell earned a $29.5 million paycheck in 2011.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.