Today, in "are you fucking kidding me," the NFL has demanded an additional $15.1 million from M.I.A. in restitution for briefly raising her middle finger during the Super Bowl halftime show two years ago. This brings the entire arbitration claim against her to $16.6 million.
Here's how we got to this batshit insane sum: last September, the NFL demanded $1.5 million from M.I.A. In a statement, the League decried her decision to raise her middle finger while mouthing "I don't give a shit" as "in flagrant disregard of the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl." And now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the NFL has decided to seek the additional $15.1 million in "restitution." This sum was arrived upon calculating how much advertisers would have paid for ads during the two minutes and 10 seconds of M.I.A.'s live performance. (M.I.A. was not paid for the event, as is the NFL custom. Cool, guys.)
M.I.A. is, obviously, not taking this lying down — since September, rumors have circulated that she's waging a "secret legal war" with the Football Gods. Now, thanks to legal response papers obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, that war is no longer covert: "The continued pursuit of this proceeding is transparently an exercise by NFL intended solely to bully and make an example of [M.I.A.] for daring to challenge NFL," they read.
From there, shit gets very real:
Such aggressive posturing toward [M.I.A.] 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 even dramatically worse conduct.
M.I.A.'s lawyers argue that the notion that the NFL has a "wholesome reputation" is a "false assertion," pointing to an "long-entrenched, demonstrable" history of "profane, bawdy, lascivious, demeaning and/or unacceptable behavior by its players, team owners, coaching and management personnel, and by performers chosen and endorsed by the NFL to perform its halftime shows." Not only has the NFL been fully aware that its performers would engage in "salacious" displays in the past — Michael Jackson grabbing his crotch, Prince stroking his guitar neck as though it were an "erect, oversized phallus," etc. — but it's also overlooked deplorable behavior from its players and coaches.
As the response papers note, NFL players, coaches and team owners have been seen "flipping the bird" and uttering profanities during broadcast games, and they're rarely fined for it. In fact, racist profanities are so common in the NFL that the League was "recently reported to be considering... the imposition of a 15-yard penalty against players who utter the 'N-word' on the field." (For those of you who don't feel like doing the math yourselves, that's roughly one yard for every ONE MILLION DOLLARS M.I.A. has been asked to pay.) Oh, and, um, remember Richie Incognito? So, sorry, what "good will" and "wholesome reputation" were you talking about, exactly? In the words of M.I.A.'s legal team, "Only profound hubris on NFL's part can explain why NFL pursues the arbitration demands made here."
On a less badass, but perhaps more technical, note: the FCC received a mere 222 complaints from over 111.3 million viewers over the Halftime Show, and some of those complaints were about commercials. In addition, the fleeting middle finger didn't have "one iota of financial impact" on the NFL.
This case is abhorrently and patently ridiculous; if there's any sense in the world, it'll thrown out. In the meantime, though, M.I.A. does have a backup plan:
Image via Getty.