It's not always possible or appropriate to let loose a colorful verbal tirade or to gracefully exit an uncomfortable situation - sometimes, only the classic raised middle finger will do. Just ask these famous people who flipped the bird on the air for all the world to see. From newly minted Academy Award winners to press-averse singers, from peeved politicians to riled-up athletes, this list of celebrities who flipped off cameras proves no one is immune to the momentary satisfaction a stiff middle finger lifted into the air can provide. And since these incidents were caught live on camera, we've got a permanent record of the gloriously indecorous behavior.
As far back as ancient Greece, people were utilizing the finger to express their feelings. It's changed meaning over time, starting as a crude euphemism for sex, while ancient Romans saw it as a physical threat. In Elizabethan times, biting a thumb was the equivalent of raising a middle finger. And, of course, Americans have embraced the bird as the quintessential nonverbal "screw you" for generations.
M.I.A. Flipped Off The Super Bowl AudienceVideo: YouTube
During Madonna's 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, singer M.I.A. made a cameo - but she wasn't about to let her brief appearance go by unnoticed. She quickly gave the camera the finger during her solo, and viewers took notice. The NFL initially tried to fine her $16.6 million for the infraction, but eventually lowered it to a still-astounding $1.5 million.
M.I.A. claimed the finger was simply a mudra, a Hindu gesture often done in yoga practice:
In America you have gang signs, and people throw up initials and stuff like that. Well, 5,000 years ago, there was [a] thing called a mudra, which is your sitting position when you do yoga or you're meditating or praying or whatever. And you have different ones based on what you're meditating over... The middle finger is... the Matangi mudra.
Former boy band dreamboat Robbie Williams performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Many were not thrilled by Williams's agreement to take part in the event, though, given Russia's track record of human rights abuses. But Williams remained undeterred.
In his opening song, he gave the camera the bird and ad-libbed the lyrics, "I did this for free." Williams seemed to suggest he wasn't getting paid, so it was no big deal. Many in the British media felt that even his appearance at the event gave tacit approval to the host country's policies, but Williams didn't seem to feel the same.
- Video: YouTube
Bud Adams, the owner of the Tennessee Titans, was not happy when his team got trounced by the Buffalo Bills during a 2009 game. As the game was winding down, Adams flipped off the Bills and their fans in a moment of frustration. It was just a few seconds, but proved a costly gesture. The NFL ended up fining him $250,000 for "conduct detrimental to the league."
Adams was contrite. He issued a mea culpa, stating, in part, "I got caught up in the excitement of a great day, but I do realize that those types of things shouldn't happen... I need to specifically apologize to the Bills, their fans, our fans and the NFL."
During his first year with NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya received a hefty $10,000 fine for flipping off his dashboard camera. He said the gesture was meant as a joke for the camera crew documenting his life for a news story, but NASCAR wasn't laughing. Montoya's bird aired live, and NASCAR takes "obscene gestures" seriously.
In addition to the fine, NASCAR placed Montoya on probation for the rest of the year. Still, the driver remained indifferent: "Honestly, I don't even care... If that's what they want to do, then that's what they want to. I am not going to say whether I agree with it or not. I don't care."