The NFL blamed NBC for allowing video of singer M.I.A. flashing her middle finger to be seen by 111.3 million viewers on Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast. NBC, in turn, blamed the NFL for hiring the talent behind the incident.
Stuart Katz, an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University's Department of Strategic Communication, said all the finger pointing over the offending digit misses the target.
“It shouldn’t have happened, and it didn’t have to happen,” says Katz, who has been working on live broadcast sporting events like The Olympics since 1978.
“The reality is somebody has to operate the technology. No technology recognizes an obscene gesture,” Katz told Big Hollywood. “That halftime show was rehearsed repeatedly … that reinforces the concept that it didn’t have to happen that way.”
Katz says it was likely human error responsible for the gaffe, adding that it’s improbable the equipment tasked with blurring an offensive image suddenly malfunctioned during showtime.
“They were supposed to blur the picture or at least cut to the wide shot in time… they didn’t do it fast enough … or somebody wasn’t watching,” he says.
The imbroglio could impact future broadcasts and inspire another “layer of protection” to be added to live events, he says.
Not everyone watching the broadcast noticed M.I.A.’s defiant finger gesture. But Katz, a veteran sports broadcast professional, remembers the moment “vividly.”
“I said, ‘oh, there’s gonna be trouble after that,’” he says.