M.I.A. flips off America during the Super Bowl
The British singer/rapper managed to upstage both Madonna and her impossibly over-the-top stage show during halftime of Sunday's (2/5) NFL final in Indianapolis by flipping off millions of viewers near the end of her appearance with Nicki Minaj, both of whom were onstage to lend an assist to Madonna's "Gimme All Your Luvin'".
Call it the Digital Blunder, maybe. NBC's cameras caught M.I.A.'s extended finger and broadcast it to more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone. The network's censors appeared to try to blur out the offending digit, but were slightly too late on the uptake, even with the standard delay system that has been in place for Super Bowls since the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" incident during the halftime show of 2004's game, when Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson's costume, exposing the singer's breast and a weird metallic "nipple shield."
The 2004 event resulted in a huge FCC fine for CBS, which broadcast the game, and a plethora of lawsuits against CBS and Viacom, which produced the show through its MTV arm, many of which were settled out of court, along with calls for tougher restrictions on so-called "obscene material" on network television.
NBC, for its part, was quick to pass the buck this time around. "The NFL hired the talent and produced the halftime show," NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey said. "Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers."
M.I.A., best known for her 2007 hit "Paper Planes," is not known for ducking controversy. Her political activism earned her an appearance on a Homeland Security risk list in 2006, and she was denied a travel visa to the U.S. in 2005. She also engaged in a highly public beef with the New York Times in 2010 after the newspaper printed an article about her involvement with Sri Lankan politics which she and her supporters felt contained errors.