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More on the NFL Shakedown


The NFL is now retroactively applying its belief that musicians who perform at the Super Bowl should not only pay for the privilege, but should also pay the NFL for the money they make after the fact from the publicity:

Because there is nothing more wholesome than the modern-day equivalent of Roman bloodsport, the NFL is very concerned about morals. (It is the sexy stuff and swear words that will set our nation’s youth on the path to delinquency.) As you may recall, M.I.A. violated this sacred trust when she raised her middle finger to the camera at Super Bowl XLVI, forcing awkward conversations between parents and their kids about how it’s only okay to raise your finger like that when Daddy is mad in traffic.

And now M.I.A. has paid dearly for it—although how dearly, exactly, remains unclear, as she and the NFL have reached an undisclosed settlement in the NFL’s lawsuit against her. The NFL originally sought $1.5 million for the singer’s “flagrant disregard” for the NFL’s values, then it upped that demand by a staggering additional $15.1 million, supposedly to compensate for all the free publicity she got for the gesture. For her part, M.I.A. has called the suit “a massive display of powerful corporation dick-shaking,” a spectacle that, if taken literally, would surely result in massive fines.

The lawsuit for using the middle finger is stupid enough as it is, but upping the lawsuit to sue M.I.A. for the money she supposedly made from the added publicity shows the greed of the billionaires who run the league has no bounds.

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  • wengler

    The money from the settlement of this suit will surely go to the fund for retired NFL players with neurological disorders? Right?

    • Lee Rudolph

      In honor of M.I.A.’s gesture, it will go to the fund for retired NFL owners with prostate disorders.

  • MattF

    I’d be appropriate if musicians now choose to boycott NFL events.

    • liberalrob

      Would you now… :)

      I agree. But actually it doesn’t really matter to me, I’ll be watching the Puppy Bowl anyway so I have no dog in that fight.

      • NonyNony

        I see what you did there…

    • CrunchyFrog

      I’d also like a boycott, but it wouldn’t work. Oh, there was a time when the NFL would pay massive sums for a mediocre 15-minute medley of 5-6 songs from 3 decades ago from a musician who hadn’t had a hit since, but those days are gone. Back then the NFL was trying to keep people from switching channels during halftime. Now the Super Bowl is established as two audiences: football fans and everyone else, and “everyone else” is the bigger number. They know football fans will switch to ESPN or (the NFL hopes) the NFL network, but that the other folks will watch whatever they put on – as has been proven by the success of “reality” TV.

      So, the NFL now sees the halftime as a built-in, guaranteed massive audience and has decided to sell access to this audience to any one who wants to take advantage of the exposure.

      Right now the NFL is “exploring” trying to get some specific acts to pay. But this will quickly evolve into the biggest performance artist agencies buying up the halftime years in advance and then carefully choosing which of their current “stars” will get to perform. Probably with reality shows built around the idea – 6 episodes, leading to the final episode when Disney or Nickelodeon will choose which of their current six or seven 18-20 year old singers will share the honor. Or perhaps the Taylor Swift International LLC Challenge where she’ll pick who gets to perform with her (from a selection of singers who are under contract to her agency).

      Brave New World, you know. Ignore that weather disaster going on outside the stadium, please.

      • Bufflars

        Interesting analysis and probably right.

  • Barry Freed

    Oh I love it when they double down on the douchebaggery like that. I’d advise them to ask for an additional $15 million for all the publicity she’ll get for saying “dick-shaking.”

  • MAJeff

    No one would have payed attention to the boring-ass halftime show if it weren’t for her flipping off the camera. She brought them what they desire: publicity.

    She should countersue them for the royalties they got from licensing clips and images of her flipping off the camera.

    • Richard

      She settled with them. She can’t countersue now (and never could have). Terms of settlement undisclosed but probably fairly minimal although I’m sure she incurred a lot of money in attorney fees.

      • Richard

        Thing to understand is the reason the NFL could sue is that she signed a contract promising not to do offensive things. Without the contract, they could not have sued. As I constantly advise my clients, once you sign a contract promising not do something and then you go ahead and do it, you suffer the consequences.

        • Gwen

          I’m just waiting for the NFL’s legal team to try to invent new implicit covenants and warranties.

          • Richard

            I dont think they need to. Ever since Janet Jackson, the performers have to sign an explicit covenant and warranty. You don’t sign, you don’t play. M.I.A. signed it.

            • Gwen

              Yes, but that was the past. I am envisioning a brave new world here, Richard.

              Only a matter of time before somebody does something that doesn’t unambiguously fall within an explicit covenant.

              • Lee Rudolph

                Where, by the way, is Dilan these days? He is, in fact, an entertainment lawyer, and it would be interesting to hear his opinion.

                • sharculese

                  He hasn’t been back here since the Great Change.

                • He’s probably writing Weird Al’s contract for performing at the Super Bowl.

              • Richard

                Could be but this one was a no-brainer. You can’t expect to sign a contract saying I won’t do anything offensive and then shoot the finger at the show and nothing will come of it. Yeah, the claim for future earnings was overkill but it seems to have been prompted by her response to the original claim

                • Gwen

                  I haven’t read any memos or briefs, but, it definitely seems to fall outside of the usual scope of contract damages, namely, expectations/benefit-of-the-bargain damages.

                  My guess is their argument was basically an equitable argument rooted in a claim of unjust enrichment.

                  The thing is, when a lawyer starts claiming equitable remedies on top of ordinary contract damages, particularly in non-extraordinary circumstances (pardon me while I yawn) s/he just kinda look like the sort of jerk who would start just making up legalese-sounding words to justify non-existent causes-of-action.

                  Hence, why I fully expect the NFL will find a way to benefit from a new-fangled implied warranty/convenant/whatever.

                  TL;DR — We’re playing Calvinball, and the League has the home-field advantage.

                • Richard

                  There were no public memos or briefs because it went to arbitration. I agree with you that the claim of future earnings was made up and I dont know whether the contract even discussed damages or not. But the breach was pretty simple stuff

                • rea

                  an equitable argument rooted in a claim of unjust enrichment.

                  Well, no. You can’t do that if there is a contract between the parties.

                  And the argument would have to be, “She made a lot of money from showing her middle finger at our event. That’s money we would have made otherwise. We could have got our own guy with a finger . . .”

        • sharculese

          Sure they were within their rights. Just because you’re within your rights doesn’t mean you’re not tacky and lame or immune from being called tacky and lame.

          • and poopyheads. We should get to call them poopyheads too.

            • sharculese

              I dunno man. That’s a little extreme.

              • Maybe one of the Law-geeks around here can dress it up with some legal jargon. A little poopyhead boilerplate, if you will. Some fol-de-rol and maybe a little kerfuffle.

  • Todd

    That’s what the bloggers could never understand. That what Goodell and the organization does is offer protection for people who can’t go to ASCAP and BMI. That’s it. That’s all it is. They’re like the police department for musical acts.

    • Richard

      I dont understand the reference to ASCAP and BMI. As a songwriter, M.I.A. is signed to either ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. They collect public performance royalties for her. They have nothing to do with protecting her as a songwriter or as a performer. They’re not like a union or an agent or anything like that.

      • Gwen

        What artists like M.I.A. need, of course, is an armed citizenry.

      • brad

        Tsktsk. Imagine Ray Liotta reading that line…

        • Four Krustys

          How do you say “Fuck you, pay me” in Latin?

          • Captain C

            According to Google Translate:

            “Catapultam habeo! Redde me!”

            I have a feeling that may not be exactly what an enraged Roman Empire-vintage gangster would have said.

            • Captain C

              And when you send it back to English:

              “I have a catapult! Pay me!”

              • Captain C

                And starting over from square one:

                “Irrumabo! Redde mihi!”

  • Gwen

    If there’s any justice, the NFL will decide to hire Coldplay. All Coldplay songs sound the same and all of them put me to sleep. There’s a nice inoffensive act that Goodell and his merry band of moral scolds can enjoy.

    • Richard

      M.I.A. played in 2012. In 2013, Beyonce played in a show that was fairly sexy but didn’t cross any bounds. In 2014, it was Bruno Mars in a pretty exciting show. I don’t think the NFL is looking for bland but they are looking for not patently offensive.

      • sharculese


        It was a music star making a gesture we’ve all known since childhood in a venue that robbed it off all ability to really insult.

        • Richard

          It was clearly prohibited by the contract she signed. I dont think the NFL was going overboard in trying to prevent this from happening during the halftime of their showcase event (although the claim for future earnings was surely overkill). Hell, even her fellow performers on that show like Madonna criticized her

          • sharculese

            I don’t dispute that it’s within the range of things that were prohibitable by her contract. I said as much above. But just because you can go to court doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not kind of a tool for going to court.

            I do dispute that it was a thing worth going after. It’s shooting the bird at a camera. It’s banal, anesthetized rebellion, and slamming the gavel down on is silly, is absolutely going overboard.

            As for what Madonna thinks are the appropriate standards of public behavior, that is not a thing I can begin to care about.

          • Alexander OConnor

            ” Hell, even her fellow performers on that show like Madonna criticized her” — Richard

            Well that settles it. Clearly, that is precedential, authoritative and out-come determinative.

            I do not know what the express terms of the contract are / were but it is not clear to me that the middle finger is patently offensive.

            • Richard

              The contract was very broadly worded so flipping the bird on national tv would be covered by it. (I’ve not seen the contract but I know attorneys who have). Proving breach of contract in the mandatory arbitration provided by the contract was a piece of cake. Not unlike proving that Donald Sterling did things injurious to the NBA by making the statements on his notorious recording. Proving damages, on the other hand, was not a piece of cake. In any case, she settled and agreed to pay something to the NFL.

              And obviously what Madonna thought was not determinative but its not irrelevant that no other performers, not even her fellow performers on the show, came to her defense when the NFL brought their action.>

              • Alexander OConnor

                On the contrary, I believe it would be utterly irrelevant and present a substantial likelihood of confusion of the issues.

                • jamesepowell

                  It’s an arbitration, no?

            • ThrottleJockey

              I do not know what the express terms of the contract are / were but it is not clear to me that the middle finger is patently offensive.

              Then you’ve never had the bird flipped at you. It was a derogatory gesture done for no reason at all. I liken it to the time I went to the New Edition Reunion concert and Bobby Brown, after getting tired of dancing with the crew, decided to turn around and moon the crowd. I’m thinking, ‘Why did I pay $160 to see Bobby Brown’s naked ass???’

              I’d guess Roger Goodell similarly questioned why he spent $1.5M to get flipped off. I’m no Goodell fan but I’m glad he won this one.

              • sharculese


                We’ve all had the bird shot at us. This isn’t 6th grade cotillion. It’s not that big of a deal.

                • CrunchyFrog

                  I gotta go with Richard here on the technicality. I think the situation is stupid, but there was a contract and the bird is offensive.

                  How offensive? Well the standard translation is “fuck you”. A very banned phrase for TV. Second, when players flip the bird and it is caught on TV, on replays they blur the picture around the finger, as they would for nudity. Third, anyone in the NFL caught doing so is fined and/or suspended, depending on circumstances, and this is probably true in other US sports.

                  I’m sorry, the “this isn’t that offensive” defense is a complete non-starter.

                • efgoldman

                  when players flip the bird and it is caught on TV, on replays they blur the picture around the finger, as they would for nudity.

                  Proves nothing except they think the audience is idiots and don’t know what’s behind the shadow.
                  And also they’re afraid of some dudette in Michigan’s UP trying to start a boycott on Twitter,

              • Alexander OConnor

                Yes, of course I have never have never been given the middle finger. Uh–huh.

                Or maybe I wear grown up diapers and do my own laundry.

                Look I live in Chicago. I get flicked off for walking down the street.

                If it offends you then you are a petulant bruised baby.

                Petulant bruised baby syndrome and NFL fan-dom are highly correlated.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  I live there too and I, for one, get tired of being flipped off..

                  What I find intriguing are those who defend her. I don’t get it. Its like those people who defended Erykah Badu stripping naked and walking down a public promenade in downtown Dallas for a music video. Why would we treat her any differently than we treat any other person who strips naked and walks down a street???

                • sharculese

                  How should we treat someone who strips naked and walks down the street, though? That’s kind of question 1.

                • We have to treat naked people, since they’re unlikely to have a wallet handy…and if they do EW.

                • Reasonable laws don’t criminalize mere public nudity. Hell, the Oregon Supreme Court considers it to be constitutionally protected expression.

                • rea

                  The bizarre thing is that she was trying to say something about the Kennedy assassination–she did this in front of the Book Depository in Dealey Plaza. Exactly what she was trying to say about the Kennedy assassination remains unclear . . .

              • Alexander OConnor

                The more important question is why one would ever spend any money at all to see either New Edition or Bobby Brown; let alone both.

                And then not only that but to admit the fact many, many years later.

                If flagellation is your thing I suggest instead burlap.

                Or you could just stomp your feet.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  I don’t know very many black people who were under 30 in the ’80s and didn’t like New Edition!

                • Alexander OConnor

                  Funny I knew several.

                • ThrottleJockey


              • I was a Democrat until M.I.A. mooned Badu in the Chappaquiddick.

          • gorillagogo

            The fact that Madonna criticized her is the most absurd part of this whole brouhaha. Her entire career has been based on calculated outrage. I think her main complaint was that MIA took the spotlight away from her.

      • Gwen

        Call me crazy, but I don’t want to live in a country where the NFL gets to decide what is and isn’t offensive.

        • Gwen

          So far in this thread, pretty much every post has been an ad hominem attack on the NFL.

          But I’ve never denied being an objectively terrible person.

          Sometimes, the truth is this simple: (the object of my scorn) is bad, and should feel bad.

          • liberalrob

            The NFL is a duly-adjudicated illegal monopoly that has lost many times in court yet continues to exercise monopoly power; it is an organization run by billionaire bullies and tyrants who got rich by screwing over their fellow man; it has done everything possible to screw over its players, who are treated as disposable interchangeable parts. It is a reprehensible group of reprehensible people that should be broken up and banned from ever existing again.

            It is also within its rights to demand whatever terms it wishes from performers who wish to perform at their halftime show. And when those performers sign on the dotted line, they commit to those terms.

            • Gwen

              I agree with you, but damages shouldn’t exceed the benefit-of-the-bargain, or whatever the performer’s fee was.

              Asking for excessive damages just invites one to hate them.

              • ThrottleJockey

                I had liked MIA a good bit before then but lost some respect for her after that stunt. It was cheap, asinine, and infantile. She has so much to say about xenophobia, classism, and world affairs that flipping the bird to us just cheapened herself.

                • All the concern trolling.

                • Jordan

                  This is one of the least-likely-to-be-true things I’ve read from TJ for a while.

                • cpinva

                  the tell:

                  “She has so much to say about xenophobia, classism, and world affairs that flipping the bird to us just cheapened herself.”

                  no real person uses that term, except in parody.

                • I was a M.I.A. fan until the Super Bowl, and now I’m outraged by truffle fries.

                • Yes, but that’s just your inherent American childisness, that you can’t handle a bit of mild profanity the way the rest of the world can.

                • advocatethis

                  Everything you say undermines the NFL’s argument that her stunt enriched her.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  What’s less likely, Jordan? That I liked her less in the aftermath? Or, that I liked her at all to begin with?

                  I liked her less in the same sense that I liked Kanye West less after I saw him act like an entitled spoiled brat when Ashton Kutcher pranked him on Punk’d. I still like her music but whereas before I held her in the same esteem as I did Lauryn Hill–a sista with some serious shit to say–now she’s just another pop star with some tight rhymes and great production.

              • efgoldman

                Asking for excessive damages just invites one to hate them.

                Yeah, but what percentage of fans even know about this? And of those, what percentage cares?

        • cpinva

          “Call me crazy, but I don’t want to live in a country where the NFL gets to decide what is and isn’t offensive.”

          this would be the same NFL that thought it perfectly inoffensive to have both rush Limbaugh and dennis miller doing color commentary, on Monday night broadcasts.

          that alone should, for all time, exclude the NFL from any part, no matter how insignificant, in the “what’s offensive?” decision making process.

      • Bruno Mars


        I understand these words, but I can’t understand how they can be used together.

        Also, weren’t the desiccated remains of the Red Hot Chili Peppers there, too? Are they playing second banana to Bruno Mars now?

        • liberalrob

          I realized I was officially getting old when I asked myself “who the hell is Bruno Mars?”…

          Excuse me, I suddenly feel the need to go find some kids to order to get off my lawn.

  • Alexander OConnor

    The middle finger is hardly more patently offensive than a bunch of over- juiced men running around playing a childrens’ game claiming that a deity gives one rats ass or another over its outcome.

    That is patently offensive and monstrous.

  • Alexander OConnor

    The silent middle finger more patently offensive than ritualized aggrandized violence and the promotion of the same to the detriment of the players.

    To say nothing of the other labor practices of the NFL and its associated owners.

    That is patently offensive and monstrous.

  • Ann Outhouse

    Has hockey started yet?

  • Ann Outhouse

    Knock your wife unconscious: $500,000.
    Flip the bird: $15,000,000.

    Yep. Makes sense to me.

    • shooting an unarmed black teen is only worth $250K. so obviously we have a pretty fucked up set of standards in America.

  • Ah yes. Fine NFL values like calling players a half-n piece of shit and running a dog fighting ring.

    • matt w

      Don’t forget Mike Priefer.

  • pianomover

    Not buying a Chevy truck, Coors Light, Gilette razor nor am I Standing Up For Cancer by using my MasterCard at a Red Lobster therefore I’m pretty sure the NFL doesn’t give a fuck what I think.

  • Why did I read that M.I.A. settled with the NFL a few days ago? Is the NFL suing her AGAIN?

  • rhino

    I have spent time with MIA backstage at a music festival. She should sue the NFL. For failure to realize that hiring her was the worst of ideas. Due diligence.

    Anyone who spent more than five minutes in conversation with her would realize that they are fortunate that a stiff middle finger was all they got. It would be more in character for her to deliver a closed fist. Elbow deep.

    Ps: nothing here should be construed as disapproval. Have all the albums, on heavy rotation on the iPod.

  • rjcoy06

    The NFL is the worst! The way all these sports leagues are being run is really turning me off to professional sports. Don’t even get me started on the NCAA. I have always loved sports and still am active in a couple, but all this greed and hypocrisy by these owners is making me lose my passion for watching.

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