NFL settles with singer M.I.A.

Updated: August 22, 2014, 5:05 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

As the NFL levied a $12,000 fine on Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel for flashing his middle finger on the sideline during Monday's game, news of the resolution of the league's $16.6 million middle-finger battle was confirmed.

Howard King confirmed to ESPN.com that his client, singer M.I.A., has reached a confidential settlement with the league. King said he could not share any further information, including when the settlement occurred. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league would not have a comment on the matter.

MIA
Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesThe NFL reached a settlement with singer M.I.A., who flipped the middle finger during her Super Bowl XLVI halftime show appearance.

The singer, whose real name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, flipped the bird during her Super Bowl XLVI halftime show appearance with Madonna. Contracts signed by performers for the Super Bowl stipulate that an artist's performance and wardrobe must comply with the NFL's standards. Failure to do so, could result in a stiff fine.

In March 2012, a month after the game, the NFL filed a claim with the American Arbitration Association seeking $1.5 million from the Sri Lankan artist. In March of this year, with the matter still not resolved, the NFL filed papers with the AAA seeking an additional $15.1 million in damages.

After news of the new asking amount was made public, M.I.A. tweeted: "@madonna ummm .... can I borrow 16 million?"

The Federal Communications Commission received 222 complaints about the Super Bowl broadcast on NBC that year, most of whom were not happy with the fact that M.I.A.'s choice of finger was fully shown on television.

"A 'performer' named MIA gave me and the entire viewing audience the finger during her halftime show," a viewer from Nashville wrote in a note to the FCC that was obtained by ESPN's "Outside the Lines." "If you were to take action that would cause NBC to ban this performer for life, it would finally send a message that this type of crap doesn't pay in money or publicity."

Another viewer from Alaska wrote in a letter to the FCC that their 6- and 8-year olds had to see M.I.A. "flip off the cameras, essentially flipping off America, and flipping off my family."

Both NBC and the NFL subsequently apologized for showing the action. The NFL's statement read in part: "The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans."

King, on behalf of his client, filed papers with the American Arbitration Association that "nothing in the performance ... did anything to damage the reputation or goodwill of NFL (sic), or cause injury to NFL." King further argued that the action didn't result in any financial damage to the league, either.

The FCC did not issue any fines over the matter.

In 2004, the FCC fined CBS and its affiliates $550,000 for airing Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl halftime show. That fine was eventually tossed out when, in 2012, the Supreme Court let stand a court of appeals decision that reversed the fine.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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