clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A French soccer team wants M.I.A. to pull her video for 'Borders'

Paris Saint-Germain threatens legal action over M.I.A.'s 'Fly Pirates' jersey

A leading French soccer team has asked M.I.A. to pull the video for her song "Borders" because it features her wearing a modified version of its jersey. In a letter dated December 14th, Jean Claude Blanc, deputy CEO of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer team, accused the musician of smearing the club's image with a jersey that read "Fly Pirates," a parody of its sponsor, Fly Emirates. The letter, which M.I.A. posted on Twitter Monday morning, asks her to stop broadcasting the video within 24 hours of reception, and requests "compensation for the harm we have suffered."

The song's lyrics criticize the response of Western governments to the refugee crisis, and its video recreates the often deadly journeys that refugees take when fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East. M.I.A. is shown wearing the Fly Pirates jersey twice in the clip, with the slogan placed alongside the logos of PSG, Nike, and Qatar National Bank (QNB). (PSG is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority.) When the video was released in November, some interpreted the jersey as a criticism of Qatar and its treatment of migrant workers building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. In an Instagram post today, M.I.A. said she bought the jersey in Qatar as she was on her way to shoot the video.

In the letter, Blanc said the club was dismayed to see its jersey associated with the video, pointing to social outreach projects launched under the team's foundation, and a €1 million ($1.1 million) donation that PSG made in September to a French charity and the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency. The letter, addressed to Universal Music, cites two French-language articles on the video to argue that "the use of our jersey largely contributed to attract the public and the press's attention on M.I.A.'s video clip. Thus, you unduly took advantage of our popularity and reputation to enhance the attractiveness of your artist and, consequently, the profits of your company."

The copy of the letter that M.I.A. posted on Twitter shows that it was received on December 21st, though the video remains available on YouTube and iTunes. Blanc concludes the letter by writing that PSG reserves the right to pursue any legal procedure "to protect our interests." PSG could not be immediately reached for comment Monday morning.

M.I.A. expressed confusion over the letter on social media Monday, and retweeted several posts that were critical of the team. She also accused PSG of hypocrisy. "They don't want association to people who are not privileged," she wrote in an Instagram post. "Yet they have players who are [second generation] migrants."