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NFL: M.I.A. Owes Us $16.6 Million for a Bird, but Redskins Still OK

The NFL is seeking $16.6 million from the singer for harming its reputation -- odd given that it continues to let a team use a racial slur as a name.
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We've been pointing out that the National Football League's offense-o-meter is way out of whack when it comes to the continued use of "Redskins" as a team name.

Musician M.I.A., who is being sued by the league for $16.6 million over her halftime performance at the 2012 Super Bowl, is also sensing a selective standard -- and she's hitting back, in court.

The league initially demanded $1.5 million from the English-Sri Lankan singer for flashing her middle finger and mouthing "I don't give a shit" during the February 5, 2012 performance. The sum was to be recompense for tarnishing the league's "goodwill and reputation." The NFL has filed an additional claim, for $15.1 million in "restitution" for the publicity her two minute, ten second performance brought her, a dollar-amount based on what advertisers would have paid for the time.

In papers filed on March 14 with the American Arbitration Association, lawyers for M.I.A. -- legally, Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam -- dispute the notion that the NFL has any goodwill and reputation to damage in the first place.

The legal papers [see PDF obtained by The Hollywood Reporter href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/custom/Documents/ESQ/MIA_.pdf" name="MIA NFL papers pdf"] maintain that the NFL has a history of knowingly presenting "salacious" halftime performances, and additionally point out that the high-profile advertisements shown during the game have often been risqué. The brief points to documented instances of NFL players and coaches flipping the bird and using foul language with no repercussions. 

A recent proposed rule regarding use of racial slurs on the field is further evidence that the league's "goodwill and reputation" are far from stellar, the filing says: "Racist comments have been so commonplace that NFL was recently reported to be considering (only now, after many years of misbehavior) the imposition of a 15 yard penalty against players who utter the 'N-word' on the field. ... This proposed 15 yard penalty contrasts with NFL's demand for a total of $16.6 Million from Maya."

Continued use of Redskins, or the "R-word," as a team name despite its status as a racial slur, many would say, also contrasts with the NFL's notion that it's a bastion of taste or respect.

"NFL strains credulity to the breaking point by arguing that Maya's conduct somehow damaged or abridged the reputation of NFL for wholesomeness and tastefulness, or caused it damage," the papers conclude. "Only profound hubris on NFL's part can explain why NFL pursues the arbitration demands made here."

Sadly, there's no 15-yard penalty for profound hubris.