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M.I.A. Middle Finger Upstages Madonna’s Super Bowl

06:01 AM Monday 2/6/12 | |

The NFL and a major television network are apologizing for another Super Bowl halftime show.

There was no wardrobe malfunction, nothing like that glimpse of Janet Jackson’s nipple eight years ago that caused an uproar and a government scrutiny. Instead, it was an extended middle finger from British singer M.I.A. during Sunday night’s performance of Madonna’s new single, “Give Me All Your Luvin.’“

In front of some 110 million viewers on NBC and uncounted others online, she flipped the bird and appeared to sing, “I don’t give a (expletive)” at one point, though it was hard to hear her clearly.

The NFL and NBC wasted little time in responding.

“The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans,” said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna’s halftime show.

The risque moment came during the biggest TV event of the year. The screen briefly went blurred after M.I.A.’s gesture in what was a late attempt – by less than a second – to cut out the camera shot.

“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.”

  • Her Entrance

    Madonna at the beginning of her halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
    February 5, 2012

    (AP Photo)


Jackson’s infamous oops during the 2004 halftime show raised a storm of controversy and put CBS in trouble with the Federal Communications Commission amid questions about the responsibility of TV networks to police their airwaves.

Justin Timberlake ripped off Jackson’s bustier, exposing her breast for nine-sixteenths of a second, a moment for which CBS was fined $550,000 by the FCC. The network challenged the fine and last fall, a federal appeals court ruled against the FCC despite an order from the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The three-judge panel reviewed three decades of FCC rulings and concluded the agency was changing its policy, without warning, by fining CBS for fleeting nudity.

  • Madonna With Redfoo

    Performs with the lead singer of LMFAO, during halftime at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
    February 5, 2012

    (AP Photo)


This year’s game, in which the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17, is expected to challenge last year’s record of being the most-watched U.S. TV event ever.

M.I.A. is best known for her 2007 hit “Paper Planes,” a Grammy nominee for record of the year that memorably features a sample of the Clash song, “Straight to Hell.” It was featured on the soundtrack to the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”

After the incident, McCarthy said that M.I.A. had not done anything similar during rehearsals and the league had no reason to believe she would pull something like that during the actual show.

Madonna had admittedly been nervous about her performance, hoping to position herself as the queen of a new generation of pop stars with an opulent show and a sharp performance that mixed her new release with more familiar songs. She seemed like Roman royalty when muscle-bound men carried her extravagant throne across the football field to the stage for her opening song, “Vogue.”

Guests Cee Lo, Nicki Minaj and dance rockers LMFAO also appeared with Madonna. The singing and dancing on “Vogue” was smartly choreographed, as Madonna moved more deliberately – she is 53 – but still adroitly. She briefly appeared to stumble at one point while trying to make a step on the stage set, but recovered in time.

She let a tightrope walker make the more acrobatic moves during a performance of “Music.”

Madonna carried gold pompons for a performance of her frothy new single. Twitter was alight with questions about the vocals being lip synched or augmented by tapes, particularly during this song.

The best guest was clearly Cee Lo, who joined Madonna for the final song, “Like a Prayer.” They were joined by a robed chorus in the show’s most soaring performance. With a puff of white smoke, Madonna disappeared down a trapdoor in the stage, and lights on the field spelled out “World Peace.”

The performance was also carried live on SiriusXM Radio, giving Madonna the biggest single audience of her career. For all the elaborate choreography and flashy effects, the finger incident is the more likely headline from the event.

  • Cee-Lo's Moment

    Cee-Lo Green and Madonna perform during halftime at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
    February 5, 2012

    (AP Photo)


Earlier, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert offered some pregame patriotism. Shelton and Lambert did a twangy duet on “America the Beautiful” and Clarkson, in a simple black dress, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” without a hitch after last year’s performer, Christina Aguilera, flubbed a line.


  1. livenationsux wrote:

    05:52 PM, Feb 09, 2012

    Hey now, everyone knows who M.I.A is now! Funny how she has a new cd coming out. I chalk this one up to the PR dept.

  2. Anonymous wrote:

    12:47 PM, Feb 08, 2012

    Once again we have a male dominated industry crapping on the women who allow them to take the bread home to their families. It's hilarious.

  3. thurzday wrote:

    03:12 PM, Feb 06, 2012

    Madonna and MIA both suck.  Literally and figuratively.  Whoever thought of adding these 2 clowns to the broadcast must've been bribed.  Better luck next year.

  4. boyroy wrote:

    11:51 AM, Feb 06, 2012

    america's game, so why not have america's music? JAZZ, oh my bad doesn't sell not popular,doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator......never mind,no mind, just find another tired old white person for the next game.....actually madonna was entertaining compared to last years fiasco....

  5. neutralmilk wrote:

    11:15 AM, Feb 06, 2012

    It is amazing that America is so offended and outraged by Janet Jackson's nipple or MIA's middle finger, but is perfectly blase about corruption, poverty, war etc.

    I find it especially ironic, when during the commercial breaks for the game there were violent images from a R-rated movie, a video game and TV show that regular portrays brutal murders with graphic images.

  6. SneakyPete wrote:

    10:49 AM, Feb 06, 2012

    Is it any surprise MIA would do this in front of 110 million viewers? Controversy sells.  

    I saw MIA at Coachella a few years back and it was one of the worst live performances I have ever witnessed.

  7. toogoogetmoo wrote:

    08:47 AM, Feb 06, 2012

    What do the powers-that-be expect?  It seems that whenever you add a Rap-based (i.e. Crap-based performed by crappers) component to just about anything - an event, a recording session, etc. - the result sometimes ends with obscenity or violence.  Rap sucks and it should be kept off the public airwaves!!!