NBC and the NFL's apology for rapper M.I.A.’s flipped middle finger during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday simply isn’t enough for some viewers this year, with one watchdog group calling the move a “slap in the face.”
“NBC fumbled and the NFL lied because a performer known as M.I.A. felt it necessary to flip off millions of families,” Parents Television Council (PTC) President Tim Winter told Fox411 in a statement. “It is unfortunate that a spectacular sporting event was overshadowed once again by broadcasting the selfish acts of a desperate performer.”
The moment in question happened when M.I.A. joined halftime headliner Madonna for a performance of the song “Give Me All Your Luvin.” There was no wardrobe malfunction, nothing like that glimpse of Janet Jackson's nipple eight years ago that caused an uproar and government scrutiny. Instead, in front of some 110 million viewers on NBC and uncounted others online, she flipped the bird and appeared to sing, "I don't give a (expletive)" at one point, though it was hard to hear her clearly.
The risque moment came during the biggest TV event of the year. The screen briefly went blurred after M.I.A.'s gesture in what was a late attempt -- by less than a second -- to cut out the camera shot.
The NFL blamed NBC for being not quick enough to censor the gesture, while NBC noted that the NFL is responsible for the content of the halftime show.
"The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans," said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna's halftime show. He said that M.I.A. had not done anything similar during rehearsals and the league had no reason to believe she would pull something like that during the actual show.
"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."
But the PTC isn’t satisfied with NBC or the NFL’s explanation.
“The mechanism NBC had in place to catch this type of material completely failed, and the network cannot say it was caught off guard,” Winter said. “It has been eight years since the Janet Jackson striptease, and both NBC and the NFL knew full well what might happen. They chose a lineup full of performers who have based their careers on shock, profanity and titillation. Instead of preventing indecent material, they enabled it. M.I.A. used a middle finger shamelessly to bring controversial attention to herself, while effectively telling an audience filled with children, ‘F– you.’
“A simple apology rings hollow after yet another slap in the face to families, especially when NBC has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that it should be allowed to air all manner of indecent material at any time of day, even when children are watching.
Back in M.I.A.'s native Britain, the London Times noted Monday that while all eyes may have been on Madonna at halftime, "it was the extended middle finger of the British hip-hop star M.I.A. that caused the most controversy." The Guardian wondered whether anyone would really be outraged.
"You'd be forgiven for not having a coronary over the fact M.I.A. gave Super Bowl viewers the finger during her halftime guest spot with Madonna," the newspaper wrote in its music blog. "For most fans, it was probably more shocking to see M.I.A. performing a rehearsed dance routine than flipping the bird."
M.I.A. is best known for her 2007 hit "Paper Planes," a Grammy nominee for record of the year that memorably features a sample of the Clash song, "Straight to Hell." It was featured on the soundtrack to the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.