M.I.A. could be in breach of contract for lewd act during Super Bowl halftime show

Controversial rapper M.I.A. may be in breach of contract with the National Football League following her obscene gesture during Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.

The British-born artist accompanied Madonna on stage at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and shocked viewers by issuing a middle-finger salute and uttering an expletive while performing “Give Me All Your Luvin’.”

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Yahoo! Sports this week that the league books all its own talent for the show, and has contractual stipulations with each performer regarding their behavior.

“We do have [safeguards regarding artist conduct] written into their contracts,” Aiello said.

When asked if M.I.A. faces a potential financial penalty as a result of the incident, which took place in front of 111 million viewers, Aiello refused to say.

[ Slideshow: Check out photos from Madonna’s halftime show ]

The NFL was unhappy that the requisite delay system, designed to allow broadcaster NBC to ensure that any offensive material be kept out of the live telecast, failed to operate properly. NBC did scramble its signal, but it came moments after M.I.A.’s remark and gesture.

“There has been a delay system in place since the incident with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake,” said Aiello, referring to the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. “The system did not work and that is something we will review.

“We produce the show, the network televises it, and the system is supposed to work to make sure nothing is shown of this kind. It clearly wasn’t part of the plan.”

The Federal Communication Commission fined CBS $550,000 for airing Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in 2004, though a court later overturned the fine, ruling the FCC “acted arbitrarily” in enforcing indecency policies.

At this time, it’s unclear whether the FCC will level a financial penalty against NBC. Multiple calls to the FCC were unreturned. (UPDATE: The FCC is not commenting on the halftime incident.)

[ OMG: Madonna upstaged by singer’s lewd gesture ]

NBC, reportedly unimpressed by what it felt was an unnecessarily strong reaction from the NFL, gave its own statement.

“The NFL hired the talent and produced the halftime show,” said an NBC spokesman via email. “Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers.

Madonna was reportedly furious with M.I.A. for the gesture that overshadowed the performance, after having invited M.I.A. to join her on stage

M.I.A., whose real name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, has remained tight-lipped on the incident, although British newspaper The Sun quoted a source close to the rapper as saying she was “incredibly sorry.”

Much of the public sentiment has sided with her. As an artist with a tough and raw reputation, the incident may serve to enhance, rather than detract, from her career.

“We’re sorry this happened,” the NBC spokesman said. “It was only on the air for two-thirds of a second. We’ve gotten very few complaints.”

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Updated Thursday, Feb 9, 2012