On February 5th, 2012, M.I.A. appeared alongside Madonna and Nicki Minaj during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVI. Midway through a performance of “Give Me All Your Luvin”, M.I.A. secured the Big Game’s MVP for most controversial moment when she flipped off the cameras. (No way GWAR would ever pull such hijinx.) Though folks around the water cooler had plenty to talk about on Monday morning, there was seemingly little fallout for the Flip Heard Round The World. Or at least none that we knew about, until now.
In new documents unearthed by The Hollywood Reporter, M.I.A. has actually been locked in a legal battle with the NFL for nearly 18 months. On March 13th, 2012, just a month or so after the incident, the NFL filed a complaint with the American Arbitration Association, demanding a public apology and $1.5 million in restitution as a result of M.I.A. “breaching her performance contract and tarnishing its (the league) goodwill and reputation.” It’s worth noting that M.I.A. wasn’t paid for her appearance; though as THR points out, “the exposure that halftime performers get is seen as compensation enough.”
In their arbitration complaint, the league indicated a level of malice to the finger-flipping incident, writing, “this dispute concerns a blatant, intentional and calculated attempt by M.I.A., a musical artist, to garner worldwide publicity and attention for herself by making an offensive gesture to the cameras during the Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show performance.” The complaint goes on to add that because of her role as an entertainer, M.I.A. was “unquestionably aware of the adverse consequences sustained by the NFL, and the public outcry provoked, by the Janet Jackson ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII.”
The league went on to reveal that the organization and M.I.A’s holding company had entered into an agreement on January 30th, 2012, where she “acknowledge the great value of the goodwill associated with the NFL and the tremendous public respect and reputation for wholesomeness enjoyed by the NFL” and that she would work to “ensure that all elements of (her) Performance, including without limitation (her) wardrobe, shall be consistent with such goodwill and reputation.”
After all this time spent silent, M.I.A. and her legal team are “planning an all-out assault on the NFL’s claims of being a brand devoted to high morals.” In an interview with THR, M.I.A.’s lawyer Howard King indicated they’re “going 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 said their legal offensive will also focus on the NFL’s “hilarious” claims of promoting wholesomeness, adding the league is anything but due to “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.”
Since they’re looking to take down one of the oldest and most respected sports organizations in the world, King said they are seeking fans’ help:
“No settlement was implemented, and the NFL has resumed active pursuit of a trial through the Proskauer firm. Until now, we had reluctantly remained quiet in the hopes of not becoming subject to the whims of 28 rich NFL owners who wanted to crush this brown, outspoken young lady, especially since they are making her life miserable for the cost of a 30-second spot in one of this weekend’s secondary games. But ultimately, we could not be forced into the type of public apology demanded by the NFL.
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. 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.”
The NFL and its squad of attorneys remain resolute. In a letter last week to the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, Charles Ortner, an attorney representing NFL Enterprises LLC, wrote that the “NFLE has an interest in expediting a resolution of the liability issue in this matter.”
Ortner’s letter also alleged that M.I.A. and her legal team had failed to pay any of their share of arbitration fees, skipped several appointments for third-party mediation, used clips from the halftime performance to promote new business endeavors, and had all but “refused to take responsibility or apologize for her actions which were broadcast worldwide.”