You may recall that we discussed the scene in the 2012 Super Bowl when pop star Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (AKA M.I.A.) flipped the bird and sang “I don’t give a shit” while performing the song “Give Me All Your Luvin'” with Madonna. Personally, I did not like it, though I am often in the minority in objecting to inappropriate conduct at such events by players or performers. I thought it was immature and vulgar and inappropriate for the millions of kids watching the show. It was a lapse that occurred in a flash and was probably not noticed by many viewers. My kids however say it as did I. It was a stupid and thoughtless addition by M.I.A. to the show. It now appears that the National Football League (NFL) felt the same way and has not forgotten the violation. They are demanding compensation from M.I.A. and estimate the cost at $15.1 million in restitution.
As many of you know, I am not a fan of the NFL even though I am addicted to football (and God’s team, the Chicago Bears). From its abusive threats over the use of the term “Super Bowl” to its near fraudulent use of non-for-profit status to avoid taxers, the NFL is widely viewed as a thuggish, shameless corporate entity. I also find the $15.1 million demand a bit suspicious. They originally asked for $1.5 million, which strikes me as just about right. The increased amount appears a pressure tactic. The contract very likely included an express provision on such profane or disruptive displays — a standard part of entertainment contracts, particularly for live performances.
M.I.A. responded with a sense of victimization last fall but curiously felt the need to add profanity to her interview on the sanction for her earlier profanity: She denounced the effort as “a massive display of powerful corporation dick shaking. They want me on my knees and say sorry so they can slap me on my wrist.” Thanks for reminding me why it is so important to sanction you.
I feel no sympathy for M.I.A. She accepted the gig, which brings unparalleled exposure. The NFL (and most viewers) consider the Super Bowl one of the most shared events across cultural, political, racial, and economic lines. It is bad enough that families have had to abandon stadiums to drunks and thugs who use profane language and act violently. The NFL has strived (to their credit) to keep the game as a family oriented event. M.I.A. took this gig with that express understanding. She is a professional performer — and presumably an adult. If she cannot control her profanity, she needs to stay indoors in clubs where adolescents love that type of conduct. Without a heavy sanction, others will claim that same accidental slips of vulgar gestures and language. We are constantly making exceptions for players and performers in acting like fools and engaging in a race to the bottom in their public conduct. The result is that many find it now perfectly acceptable for adults to scream profanities or make obscene gestures. Indeed, it sometimes appears a calculated marketing move like the transformation of Miley Cyrus into a virtual public stripper. It may be too late to demand a modicum of personal restraint from athletes or performers, but some of us are not willing to give up on such minimal standards. Certainly the NFL has a right to expect performers to comply with their express commitment to avoid such displays as a condition for appearing at these events.
While I would not require the $15.1 million, I would impose the $1.5 million penalty. That would create a missing deterrent for future performers. If you do not trust yourself in public, do not accept the invitation. M.I.A. is supposedly an adult. Adults around the world have no trouble controlling themselves in public, even in public performances. Indeed, even minors have learned how to conduct themselves in public. M.I.A. clearly missed that life lesson in growing up and liability is designed to instill such belated standards in adolescent adults. Maybe then M.I.A. will “give a [damn].”
Source: Business Week