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MIA takes ongoing dispute with NFL over 2012 Super Bowl show public

By | Published on Monday 23 September 2013


Remember when MIA brought America to a stand still by raising her middle finger during a performance at the Superbowl? No, me neither, but a quick scan of the CMU archives confirms that in early 2012 MIA did indeed ruffle a few feathers by making the “obscene gesture” while singing a song at the US’s big annual kick around.

To be fair to Americans everywhere, despite broadcaster NBC and Super Bowl owner the NFL deeply distancing themselves from the finger lift, which MIA said was a spur of the moment thing and not pre-planned, the incident didn’t generate anything like the outrage Janet Jackson’s nipple reveal did at the same event in 2004. And unlike in 2004, American media regulator the FCC didn’t wade in with multi-million dollar fines, and so the story fizzled out. Or so we thought.

But it turns out that the NFL cared deeply about the finger moment, and shortly after the incident began legal action because MIA’s contract with the Super Bowl makers included a clause that said the singer acknowledged “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 “ensure that all elements of [her] performance, including without limitation wardrobe, shall be consistent with such goodwill and reputation”.

Believing MIA to have breached that clause, the NFL has seemingly been pushing for damages and a full apology ever since, albeit behind closed doors through an arbitration process agreed in that original contract. But, says the American sports body, as that process has gone through the motions the singer has not been playing ball at all.

Specific gripes in a letter recently submitted to the International Centre For Dispute Resolution by the NFL’s legal reps include MIA allegedly “challenging the arbitration clause in the agreement, failing to pay her share of the costs of arbitration, failing to attend mediation, failing to consummate a settlement-in-principle achieved, using video clips of her Super Bowl performance to promote her business endeavours and refusing to take responsibility or apologise for her actions which were broadcast worldwide”.

Quite where this dispute is heading legally speaking isn’t clear, but MIA’s people are seemingly keen to make the matter public. Noting some of the political issues on which MIA routinely comments, especially those occurring in her family’s home country of Sri Lanka, the singer’s lawyer Howard King told The Hollywood Reporter last week: “She is going to go public with an explanation of how ridiculous it was for the NFL and its fans to devote such furore to this incident, while ignoring the genocide occurring in her home country and several other countries, topics she frequently speaks to”.

King also told reporters: “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”.

He went on: “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”.

This dispute, we suspect, will rumble on for some time.