During 2012's Super Bowl halftime show, singer M.I.A. provocatively extended her middle finger to the camera while singing the words "I don't give a shit." Now, she is symbolically doing the same to the National Football League.
The Hollywood Reporter today reveals that the NFL is suing the English-Sri Lankan artist for flipping the bird and demanding $1.5 million in payment for breaching her contract. M.I.A. wasn't even paid for the performance, and apologized soon after for the spur-of-the-moment gesture. Neither NBC nor the FCC decided to push the subject, but the NFL has allegedly waged a "secret legal war" in the time since. The league argues in legal papers that her middle finger was a "flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl."
Now, the "Paper Planes" singer and her lawyer Howard King are coming out with guns blazing.
"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," King says.
Their defense strategy, it seems, is to embarrass the league into submission. This move likely won't work in court, but in the public eye, it could be damaging. The NFL's public relations department thought it could breath a sigh of relief after a recently-settled lawsuit from players that alleged the league withheld the negative effects of repeated concussions. But the attacks from M.I.A. could open up another can of worms for the league, as King's strong statements imply:
"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."
It's already looking like another negative for the NFL, as National Post sports columnist Bruce Arthur tweets:
The NFL is certifiably insane. Like, lunatic-billionaire-saving-his-pee-in-jars insane. http://t.co/yclA2vWoUA— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) September 19, 2013
So could others come out with more anti-NFL revelations as well, as M.I.A. encourages? Count Deadspin's John Koblin among those rooting for that to happen: "This should be fun. ... Hopefully there will be much more of this to come."
Until then, we'll have to wait and say. But don't bet too heavily against M.I.A.; she has a pretty good track record of making threats and getting her way.
(Photo of M.I.A. middle finger: ATownHR23 via YouTube)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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