In the aftermath of a Super Bowl XLVI halftime show that included M.I.A. doing her best Bud Adams impersonation for the cameras, the NFL suggested that legal action could be taken.
And it was. Quietly. But aggressively.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the NFL filed a claim for arbitration in March 2012, seeking payment in the amount of $1.5 million.
Those two realities strongly imply that the contract between the NFL and M.I.A. contained a clause requiring the parties to pursue any legal actions through private arbitration, and possibly that the agreement has a “liquidated damages” clause requiring M.I.A. to pay $1.5 million if she breaches the performance standards.
Via the Hollywood Reporter, a contract was signed on January 30, 2012. While M.I.A. received no compensation for the performance, in the agreement she “acknowledge[s] the great value of the goodwill associated with the NFL and the tremendous public respect and reputation for wholesomeness enjoyed by the NFL,” and she “ensure[s] that all elements of [her] Performance, including without limitation [her] wardrobe, shall be consistent with such goodwill and reputation.”
From a legal standpoint, the case is simple. She violated the contract, and now she must pay the damages.
But M.I.A. reportedly plans a media assault against the league, which her lawyer already has launched.
“Of course, the NFL’s claimed reputation for wholesomeness is hilarious,” lawyer Howard King said, “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.”
King also said that M.I.A. “is going to go public with an explanation of how ridiculous it was for the NFL and its fans to devote such furor to this incident, while ignoring the genocide occurring in her home country and several other countries, topics she frequently speaks to.”
And this is one of the reasons why people don’t like lawyers. Instead of focusing on the merits — M.I.A. fired off a one-fingered salute in violation of her contract — King has chosen to throw stones at the NFL and raise irrelevant issues.
The case is fairly simply. M.I.A. was given a worldwide platform and deliberately disregarded her contract. Though the NFL’s various P.R. problems could win M.I.A. a few jurors in the court of public opinion, this is a straightforward business dispute.
If the NFL didn’t act to protect its interests, the NFL ultimately would have no control over the multi-millionaires who position themselves to make even more millions by taking advantage of the enormous publicity that the Super Bowl halftime show provides.