MIA's Middle Finger vs. the NFL: League Demands Hip-Hopster Pay Up for Super Bowl Bird Flip

By Josh Grossberg
|  Friday, Sep 20, 2013  |  Updated 8:34 AM PDT
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M.I.A. (far right) performs with Madonna (center) and Nicki Minaj during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis.

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Remember M.I.A.'s infamous Super Bowl bird flip? Well, a year and a half on, we're now learning it's landed her in a legal fight.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, since making headlines for all the wrong reasons during Madonna's Halftime Show at Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, 2012, the English-Sri Lankan artist is on the receiving end of an effort by the NFL to make her pay for her offensive gesture.

Documents filed with the American Arbitration Association on March 13, 2012 and obtained by the trade reveal the League is demanding a payment of $1.5 million, claiming the act allegedly breached M.I.A.'s performance contract and harmed the NFL's reputation.

Per the arbitration complaint, the league suggested the gesture was not a spontaneous expression but rather a "blatant, intentional and calculated attempt by M.I.A....to garner worldwide publicity and attention for herself."

NEWS: M.I.A. flips America the bird!

Arbitration docs note that consequently, in the NFL's mind, the "Paper Planes" hitmaker did not live up to what she stipulated to in her contract: that 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 "ensure that all elements of [her] Performance, including without limitation [her] wardrobe, shall be consistent with such goodwill and reputation."

The league notes that the 38-year-old musician (born Mathangi Arulpragasam) would easily have been aware of the sensitivities concerning such a gesture given the public uproar generated by Janet Jackson's notorious "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show.

A rep for the NFL had no immediate comment on the brouhaha, though the trade reported it was pushing for a summary judgment and a trial to determine damages. It also quotes a spokesperson as saying "any monetary damages for her actions would have been donated to charity."

NEWS: Madonna slams M.I.A.'s "negative," "irrelevant" Super Bowl flip off

M.I.A.'s lawyer, Howard King, however told the Reporter the league's claim that it suffered a hit to its good name is absurd given the slew of problems the NFL has been fielding these days in its own right.

"Of course, the NFL's claimed reputation for wholesomeness is hilarious," the legal eagle said, "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."

NEWS: Nicki Minaj expresses "disappointment" over M.I.A.'s Super Bowl bird flip

King pointed out that neither the FCC nor NBC raised a stink about the incident and added that the socially conscious singer had hoped to resolve this matter privately but will remain silent no more.

To that end, the attorney is soliciting instances from people regarding how the NFL, its coaches, players and personnel have undermined its purportedly family-friendly image through "unwholesome behavior."

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