M.I.A. has been racking up more press coverage than she has seen in ages, ever since she posted a letter (below) sent to her via French soccer team PSG (Paris Saint German), demanding that she take down her “Borders” video due to the parody PSG jersey she wears in video.
The song itself speaks to the refuge crisis and includes scenes featuring rickety boats packed with street-cast young Sri Lankan males portraying the face of people without a country. Near the end of the video, M.I.A. is briefly shown wearing a parody “Fly Pirates” jersey (shown above), which normally reads “Fly Emirates” a paid placement by club sponsor Emirates, a Dubai-based airline.
The (four page!) letter signed by the club’s CEO Jean Claude Blanc mentions the club’s many accomplishments, its prestigious sponsors (Fly Emirates and Nike) and also details money it has donated to refuge causes. M.I.A. received the letter in early December, but didn’t post it to her Twitter account until January 2nd and that’s when all the fun began.
The U.K. based singer has made the most of the moment, highlighting the hypocrisy of a mega-powerful corporation whose team boasts members who are children of immigrants taking such a heavy-handed approach toward a woman who is both a refugee herself and a single mother. And really, for a soccer team that’s supposed to represent all that is cool and modern, it comes off in the letter as ridiculously out of touch. It’s noteworthy that Nike, which one has to guess is a lot more in tune with the concept of parody not to mention taking on sympathetic individuals with massive social media followings, hasn’t said a word about the controversy, nor has the subject of the parody, Emirates.
In an interview with Democracy Now!, M.I.A. says the jersey is nothing more than a trendy fashion statement and that the bigger message in the video has gone over the head of PSG management, adding there has been a pattern of men coming after her, including the NFL and her ex-husband. “Sports is a very alpha-male thing and they always come after me,” said M.I.A. in the video (below).
In another interview with TV station Al Jazeera (below), M.I.A. describes public reaction as extreme with support from her fans contrasted by angry reactions from other groups and individuals. “Every year you think there’s been progress, but you find that’s not actually the case,” said M.I.A., who concluded, “I can’t find anything negative with multiculturalism.”