NFL Sues M.I.A. for $16.6 Million Over Super Bowl Middle Finger

Football organization seeking "restitution" for advertising money allegedly lost during singer's screen time

M.I.A. performs during the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
March 17, 2014 5:30 PM ET

The NFL has added more than $15 million to its arbitration claim against singer-rapper M.I.A., demanding a total of $16.6 million for "restitution," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

For the past two years, the sports behemoth has been going after M.I.A. for flipping the world the bird and mouthing "I don't give a shit" during her guest appearance in Madonna's Super Bowl XLVI halftime show. She had made her appearance during "Give Me All Your Luvin'" – a track off the Material Girl's 2012 album MDNA – and after the show, the FCC received 222 complaints, many of which addressed M.I.A.'s proclivity for sign language. The NFL and broadcaster NBC apologized shortly after the show, and the Football League began seeking a fine from M.I.A.

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Last September, news came out that the NFL was seeking $1.5 million for breach of contract and "flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl." The additional $15 million is reportedly the value, in advertising dollars, of her two minutes of screen time.

M.I.A. took to Twitter today to show just what the NFL wanted of her, regarding her original claim. "This is what they want me to sign, that I've been fighting for two years on top of $16 million," she wrote. Using a tiered system based on her income, included in an image, the NFL allegedly requested percentages of her salary depending on how much she made. Were she to make between $500,000 and $2.5 million in a year, it would collect 50 percent of her gross earnings. Should she top out over $5 million, it would take everything.

M.I.A.'s response to the new claim describes the NFL as bullies looking to "make an example" of her for "daring to challenge the NFL." "The claim for restitution lacks any basis in law, fact, or logic," her paperwork said.

Furthermore, M.I.A.'s response condemned the "profane, bawdy, lascivious, demeaning and/or unacceptable behavior by its players, team owners, coaching and management personnel and by performers chosen and endorsed by NFL to perform in its halftime shows."

It also cited several other examples of musicians pushing the limits of decency in situations – unlike Janet Jackson's infamous "Nipplegate" affair – that the NFL allegedly could have predicted. For instance, it said Michael Jackson grabbed his crotch – or "genitalia adjustments," in legal terminology – during "Billie Jean" at the 1993 Super Bowl. Prince, it claimed, simulated masturbation on his guitar behind a sheet "as if stroking an erect oversized phallus in a manner reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix." And it said that Madonna's show, of which MIA was took part, included female dancers of indeterminate age who would "lewdly thrust their elevated pelvic areas in a manner unmistakably evocative of sexual acts." It also called out the League's policies regarding the N-word and bullying.

Her response, which THR published, also claimed that the NFL and NBC should hold themselves responsible for the failure of their five-second delay, in which it could have caught and censored her. "Any alleged fault or liability of [M.I.A.] should be diminished by NBC's dereliction," the document said. "Discovery has not been taken yet to determine whether contractually NBC owed a duty to NFL to properly operate the delay system."

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