Madonna may have put on a show-stopping performance at the Super Bowl halftime show, but it was M.I.A. who stole the spotlight with one single gesture. The “Paper Planes” hitmaker flipped the bird while performing with the pop queen, causing the NFL and NBC to issue apologies.
The controversial incident occurred during the debut performance of Madonna’s new single “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” Cameras cut to M.I.A., who threw up the middle finger and rapped a barely disguised expletive (“I don’t give a shi—”). NBC censors briefly blurred the screen, but they were late by less than a second.
The moment was reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” from eight years ago, which ignited a firestorm with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the years following, the organization tightened its control over television.
Officials from the NFL and NBC have apologized to anyone who was offended while viewing the family-friendly event, which is the most watched TV program of the year with over 100 million people tuning in.
“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.”
The NFL attributed a failure in NBC’s delay system for allowing the gesture to be broadcast. According to spokesman Brian McCarthy, M.I.A. did not display the middle finger during rehearsals and the NFL had no reason to believe that she would do so during the live show.
“The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans,” McCarthy said.
M.I.A. has yet to address the situation. Just last week, the British singer debuted the well-received video for “Bad Girls,” the first single from her upcoming fourth album.