The politically volatile singer M.I.A. has never shied away from a fight, but now she's taking on a particularly imposing American institution -- the NFL.
During her 2012 Super Bowl performance alongside Madonna and Nicki Minaj, cameras briefly captured M.I.A. raising her middle finger at the cameras. There was a minor hubbub, and you probably forgot about it within days (if not seconds).
The NFL, it seems, was less quick to forget. As new documents published in the Hollywood Reporter show, the league has quietly been pursuing a $1.5-million fine and a public apology from M.I.A. ever since the incident. The NFL claims she is in breach of her performance contract and has tarnished the "wholesome" image of the NFL.
One can debate the merits of that "wholesome" claim, and neither the FCC or NBC has pursued the issue further (in contrast to that other recent Super Bowl obscenity case).
But the NFL is not kidding -- in legal papers, it described the gesture as "flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl" that constitutes a breach of contract. The NFL is pressing for a summary judgment declaring her liable, and in the absence of a settlement it is planning to take the case to trial, according to the Reporter.
M.I.A.'s attorney Howard King told THR that, "Of course, 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."