Pro football knows how to play hardball.
The NFL has opted to apply the screws to M.I.A., who made a guest appearance during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis — and who fired off an unscripted middle finger to someone/anyone/everyone/no one.
In 2012, the league filed an arbitration claim against M.I.A., seeking payment for the $1.5 million specified in the contract for failure to adhere to certain performance standards.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the NFL now wants more. A lot more.
Above and beyond the $1.5 million, the league wants another $15.1 million as restitution for the value of the exposure she received during the two-minute appearance on the most-watched TV show of the year.
The opposition to the effort to push the total liability to $16.6 million accuses the NFL of bullying M.I.A. and making an example of her for “daring to challenge” the league. Her lawyer also points out that past Super Bowl halftime acts have included inappropriate behavior, from Michael Jackson grabbing his crotch in 1993 to Prince “caressing the neck of his stylized trademark guitar . . . as if stroking an erect oversized phallus” in 1997.
M.I.A. also fires a shot at NBC for failing to activate the “5-second delay” system. PFT partners with NBC and I separately work for NBC, so what I say next could be biased. But the argument seems like a bogus way of shifting responsibility away from M.I.A.’s conduct. No one forced her to fire off a middle finger during the performance, and NBC had no reason to believe she would do something like that, especially after signing a contract requiring her to pay $1.5 million if she did something like that.
Still, it appears the NFL is overreaching when trying to get an extra $15.1 million from M.I.A. If the consequences of misbehavior will be restitution for the value of the exposure, that’s what should have been in the contract.
In matters of litigation and arbitration, it’s a common tactic to load the cannon with as many arguments seeking as much money as possible. Asking only for $1.5 million makes $1.5 million the 100-cents-on-a-dollar recovery. Asking for $16.6 million makes $1.5 million feel more like a middle ground outcome for a misguided middle finger.