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M.I.A. Pushes Back Against NFL Over Super Bowl Bird

League wants singer to pay $1.5 million for halftime show middle finger

September 20, 2013 8:55 AM ET
M.I.A. performs during the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show in Indianapolis, Indiana.
M.I.A. performs during the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

For the past 18 months, the NFL has been demanding that M.I.A. pay $1.5 million and issue a public apology after she gave the middle finger and mouthed "I don't give a shit" during her performance at the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, headlined by Madonna, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

NFL, NBC Apologize for M.I.A. Flipping Middle Finger at Halftime Show

The NFL claims in legal documents that M.I.A.'s "offensive gesture" was in breach of her contract and "in flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl." While neither NBC nor the FCC have decided to pursue legal action against M.I.A., the NFL's lawyers are still pushing for a judge to rule her liable for her actions on summary judgement before continuing to a trial for damages.

M.I.A., unsurprisingly, is pushing back, with her lawyer Howard King saying the musician is set to go after the league publicly for wasting its time over the incident when there are far more important things at stake. King added, "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." (The NFL recently settled head injury claims from 4,500 former players to the tune of $765 million.)

The NFL is understandably very particular about such incidents since Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004, and the contract M.I.A.'s holding company signed with the league stated that she understood the NFL's positive public reputation and would not do anything to tarnish it during her performance. They now say that the singer not only knew of the backlash against the NFL following the Jackson incident, but that her middle finger was "a blatant, intentional and calculated attempt . . . to garner worldwide publicity and attention for herself."

Now that the NFL's case against M.I.A. has gone public, King and M.I.A.'s legal team are ready to enlist the singer's fans to help them wage a war against the league's perception of themselves.

"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," King said. "These submissions, which we plan to use to bolster M.I.A.'s defense, will help balance the playing field, as they very well could eliminate the burden of undertaking a formal survey of the history of unwholesome behavior, can be made to the M.I.A. defense team by email to NFL@khpblaw.com."

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