By Scott T. Sterling
Last September, the National Football League found themselves suing the singer M.I.A. for $1.5 million after she was caught flipping a middle finger on camera during a halftime performance with Madonna at Super Bowl XLVI.
Today (March 17) The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the NFL has intensified their pursuit of the “Paper Planes” singer to pay restitution for the offending gesture that was watched by more than 111 million viewers, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in U.S. history at the time.
In addition to the initial $1.5 million the NFL was pursuing “for allegedly breaching her performance contract and tarnishing its goodwill and reputation,” the league has tacked on an additional $15.1 million to the claim, stating that amount is equal to the publicity M.I.A. garnered from appearing on the halftime show.
Howard King, M.I.A.’s lawyer, continues to battle the NFL over the claim, filing response papers stating that the “continued pursuit of this proceeding is transparently an exercise by the NFL intended solely to bully and make an example of Respondents for daring to challenge NFL.”
The response also calls out the league for “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.”
The document goes on to single out previous halftime performances by Michael Jackson, Prince and even Madonna herself for including “salacious” moments, and that the NFL was well aware they were going to happen. They even go so far as to call out the broadcasting network and the pro football association for not doing their part in making sure the gesture didn’t make the worldwide broadcast via the five-second delay.
At the time of the initial claim, M.I.A. dismissed the NFL for not understanding that in her home country of Sri Lanka, the middle finger is symbolic of the goddess Matangi, which is also the name of her most recent album.
“Of course the NFL is not believing that, because the NFL does not believe in any other culture outside of the NFL,” she said at the time. “But it’s true; you can Wikipedia it. You can just say ‘Matangi’ and ‘mudra,’ and you’ll see it’s the middle finger.”