M.I.A. Says She’s Being Bullied By the NFL in its $16 Million Suit

The singer made her case in arbitration papers filed last week.

By Jamilah King Mar 18, 2014

The fallout from M.I.A.’s 2012 Super Bowl performance is still dragging on. During her performance at the game’s halftime show that year, she flipped the bird on national TV, simultaneously stunning the televised audience of 167 million and placating a fan base that criticized her for taking the gig in the first place. 

Despite the fact that the singer wasn’t paid for the performance (which is customary; global exposure is supposed to be enough), for the past two years the league has demanded that she pay $1.5 million for breaching her contract and tarnishing the league’s goodwill. The NFL has now added an additional claim for $15.1 million in restitution for the exposure the singer received during her two minute performance. The figure is based on what advertisers would have paid for commercials at the time.

In papers filed on Friday, M.I.A.  balked at the league’s claims. "The claim for restitution lacks any basis in law, fact, or logic," she said. The singer’s arbitration papers point to Michael Jackson’s 1993 halftime performance in which the singer grabbed his genitalia while singing "Billie Jean," and Madonna’s 2012 performance among scantily clad dancers as proof that the league likes to dabble in risque shows. 

M.I.A’s arbitration papers also point to the league’s most recent controversies as evidence that it’s not some wholesome entity that was tarnished by her gesture, touching on everything from the league’s crackdown on its players’ use of the n-word to Richie Incognito’s bullying scandal. From the complaint:

The continued pursuit of this proceeding is transparently an exercise by NFL intended solely to bully and make an example of Respondents for daring to challenge NFL. Such aggressive posture toward Respondents stands in marked contrast to how NFL looks the other way and does nothing to sanction its players, the coaching staff of its member teams, and even its team owners for engaging in precisely the sort of conduct it accuses Maya of here ("flipping the bird"), or for even dramatically worse conduct.

You can read the full complaint here

(h/t The Hollywood Reporter)