Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., is a British rapper, singer, and songwriter, who performed with Madonna at the Super Bowl halftime show.
More than 100 million people tuning into the championship game were subjected to the performer’s extension of her middle finger, a highly recognizable and insulting gesture. She also sang an expletive during her performance.
In an apparent effort to block the visual from the Super Bowl audience, immediately following M.I.A.'s gesture the screen became blurry. However, the redact attempt arrived too late.
NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey told the Associated Press, “Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers.”
The incident also prompted an apology from the NFL.
“The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans,” Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, told the Associated Press.
M.I.A.’s gesture invoked the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction,” an incident from a past Super Bowl halftime show that resulted in a record $550,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for CBS. The fine was eventually reversed on appeal.
Jimmy Iovine, chairman of M.I.A.'s American distribution label Interscope, referred to M.I.A. in an interview with the New York Times as one of the “really left-of-center artists.”
“Can the world catch up? Can the culture meet them in the middle?” Iovine asked.
The current inappropriate gesture by M.I.A. occurred while the Supreme Court is wrestling with the question of whether the FCC’s “fleeting expletive” policy is constitutional.
The policy has produced fines due to several celebrities having uttered profanities on the broadcast airwaves.
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