M.I.A. Tackles NFL Demands: 'They Want Me on My Knees to Say Sorry'

Rapper M.I.A. is firing back at the NFL's demands for $1.5 million after she threw up her middle finger during her Super Bowl XLVI half-time show performance with Madonna in 2012.
By ALEXIS SHAW

Rapper M.I.A. is firing back at the NFL's demands for $1.5 million after she threw up her middle finger during her Super Bowl XLVI half-time show performance with Madonna in 2012.

The "Paper Planes" singer took to YouTube on Monday to call out the league for ensnaring her in what she called a "completely ridiculous" legal battle that she said made her a scapegoat for "figuring out the goalposts on what is offensive in America."

M.I.A. was performing "Give Me All Your Luvin'" when she gave the audience and cameras the finger, the Associated Press reported. Despite a tape delay, NBC's censors were unable to block the image from reaching more than 100 million viewers.

In the YouTube video, the 38-year-old British-Sri Lankan performer said the troupe of Indianapolis high school cheerleaders Madonna recruited to dance behind the duo was more provocative than her decision to extend her middle finger.

"If you look at them, they're wearing cheerleader outfits -- hips thrust in the air, legs wide open in this very sexually provocative position," she said. "Is my finger more offensive, or is an underage black girl with her legs wide open more offensive to the family audience?" she asked. "It's a massive waste of time, a massive waste of money."

In a private arbitration, the NFL is seeking $1.5 million from M.I.A. for breaching her performance contract and tarnishing the league's reputation with the unsightly gesture, according to court documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

The arbitration began in March 2012.

The league makes the case that M.I.A.'s middle finger was "in flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl," the court filing said.

M.I.A. also should have known that the NFL would face consequences for her behavior, given the criticism that erupted after Janet Jackson's so-called wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show, the league said.

While the league never penalized Jackson over what came to be known as "Nipplegate," the Federal Communications Commission fined CBS $550,000 for her indecent exposure. The fine was dismissed by a federal appeals court in 2011, the New York Times reported.

"They want me on my knees to say sorry so they can slap me on the wrist and basically say it's okay for me to promote being sexually exploited as a female than to display female empowerment through being punk rock," M.I.A. said in the video. "That is what it boils down to, and I'm being sued for it."

M.I.A.'s attorney, Howard King, said he and his client "didn't chose this fight."

"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," King said in a statement to ABC News.

"If the NFL were really concerned about wholesomeness over income, their desire for retribution, they could re-allocate the resources devoted to attempting to crush M.I.A. to more important issues," he added.

While King said he hoped to reach a settlement with the NFL, no agreement was reached. Now, the league is seeking a trial.

A spokesman for the NFL declined to comment to ABC News. A spokeswoman for Proskauer Rose LLP, the firm representing the NFL, also declined to comment to ABC News.
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