The complicated history between gatekeepers of morality and NFL Super Bowl halftime show female performers

The complicated history between gatekeepers of morality and NFL Super Bowl halftime show female performers

The Super Bowl happens once a year, and it is hotly anticipated by sports fans and everyone in between. After all, it’s so exciting to watch two teams of men in bulky sportswear run from one end of a huge field to the other. For lawyers like us, the annual football festivities offer a different kind of thrill — that of reading about ridiculous lawsuits that usually follow.

We’ve been watching the Super Bowl for as long as we’ve been lawyering in our law offices in Renton, Seattle. Every year, there’s something to look forward to — and we’re not talking about the final result of the football game taking place. We’re thinking more along the lines of lawsuits against (mostly) female pop stars for their perceived prurient halftime show performances.

2020: J.Lo and Shakira performance invades decent peoples’ homes

Pop stars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s 2020 Super Bowl halftime show performance was a spectacle of superb lip-syncing and dancing. The stars dazzled audiences with their showmanship and athleticism, but certain members of the audience weren’t thrilled. Local minister and football coach Dave Daubenmire was not a fan.

Mr. Daubenmire had a lot to say about how the performance was “unsuitable for children”, but the bulk of his complaints concerned the thorny topic of salvation. He was concerned that such displays of the female form — especially those exhibited by stunning women like J.Lo and Shakira — in families’ homes could be detrimental to the psycho-sexual development of 12-year-old boys with raging hormones.

Predictably, Mr. Daubenmire said the people should sue and that trillions of dollars ought to be paid to people whose homes may have been violated by the sight of two female entertainers dancing provocatively without warning. It is highly doubtful, however, that this sentiment was motivated out of a desire to usher more people towards salvation.

As a character witness to what would have been a loony lawsuit, Mr. Daubenmire’s character requires thorough examination. It’s worth noting that the minister was known for forcing student-athletes to pray and for his outspoken views about marriage (i.e., he’s against it).

2012: M.I.A. flips the B.I.R.D. on national T.V.

In 2012, veteran pop star slash provocateur Madonna performed at the Super Bowl halftime show with a bunch of performers, including British rapper M.I.A. The queen of pop’s performance was perfectly serviceable and harmless, which was in itself a shock; a Madonna performance is not a Madonna performance without a shock element.

It was actually Her Madgesty’s guest performer M.I.A. who brought the surprise factor while they were performing the Madonna song “Give Me All Your Luvin”. While rapping her verse, M.I.A. raised her middle finger/flipped the bird/gave the one-finger salute, a gesture that almost completely eclipsed an otherwise fine performance.

The National Football League (NFL) sued the rapper for $16 million for an offense that flew under the Federal Communications Commission’s radar. It wasn’t until after the gatekeepers of morality pointed out M.I.A.’s alleged trespass that the public even noticed her giving the finger during a live performance.

The NFL initially sued M.I.A. for only $1.5 million, but they really wanted payback and raised it to $16 million. While there are legitimate complaints about indecency in broadcasting, this one’s strictly for the birds.

If you thought a lawsuit caused by a rapper’s middle finger is ridiculous, wait till you read the next paragraph.

2003: Janet Jackson’s costume accident unwittingly assumes the title of “mother of all halftime show performance scandals”

Pop legend Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” scandalized millions of American TV audiences and has become the mother of all halftime show performance scandals. The scandal, however, was undoubtedly overblown and pales in comparison to the atrocities that flood social media today.

Janet Jackson, while performing a medley of songs at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show with fellow pop singer Justin Timberlake, suffered from a costume mishap. Towards the end of the performance, Justin tore a piece of Janet’s clothing which accidentally exposed her right mammary.

The gaffe happened during a duet, but Ms. Jackson took the blame solo. She was disinvited from high-profile events like the Grammys, her songs and music videos were banned from radio stations like MTV, and she was sued for allegedly indecent acts. One class-action lawsuit filed against her and JT sought maximum punitive and compensatory damages but was eventually dropped. Nevertheless, Ms. Jackson’s attorneys had to work triple-time at the time.

The wardrobe malfunction was largely blamed for the fast decline of Ms. Jackson’s music career. It was also the reason YouTube exists and the reason why, on the flip side, Justin Timberlake’s career soared (or so we heard). Interestingly, through all this, an actual football game was supposed to have been happening.

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