As of this second, M.I.A. and her fabulous faux-Egyptian wardrobe remain intact. However, I can tell you this: Maya "Middle Finger" Arulpragasam may not escape from this incident unscathed ...
The Federal Communications Commission, which handles all things televised and obscene, likely won't have much of an impact on M.I.A. no matter what happens. A spokesman for the FCC would not comment to me on this matter. But if the regulating body ends up fielding angry complaints about Sunday's show, it would take action not against the musician, but rather NBC. (After Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl, the FCC levied a record $550,000 fine on CBS; the fine was thrown out on appeal.)
Yes, the NFL and M.I.A. might get sued in their own right, say, by uptight parents or angry sponsors. But even if that doesn't happen, M.I.A. just might be facing financial consequences at this hour. It's generally assumed that the NFL does not pay its half-time performers. But if it offered M.I.A. any other type of compensation, such as gifts or other perks, a contract was probably signed. And in that case ...
"Generally, in appearance and sponsorship agreements, there clauses that say you won't do anything to bring ridicule or shame to the company that's hiring you," says Dan Grigsby, a sports and entertainment specialist at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell. "I strongly suspect that, following the Timberlake-Jackson incident, the NFL has such a clause in its contract, and it's probably pretty specific—that, in order to appear on the show, you won't do anything obscene or that violates FCC rules."
How are such contract clauses usually enforced? With cash, of course. You can safely bet that M.I.A.'s contract pinned her down in one of three ways: She's liable for any fines or lawsuits stemming from her finger-flip; she forfeits some of her pay; or both. It's not unheard of for entertainers to get paid in two installments, one before performing and one after. In that case, don't be shocked if the NFL is considering withholding some or all of M.I.A.'s postgame installment.
"I suspect they had a clause that said, ‘If you violate obscenity rules, you will indemnify us for any costs we suffer'," or forfeit some pay, Grigsby explains.
As for how much money M.I.A. could stand to lose, well, that amount is anyone's guess. If worse comes to worst, she can always sell that exotic headdress on eBay.