French football club Paris St. Germain (PSG) has asked British rapper M.I.A to take down a popular music video, saying her use of a modified PSG jersey in a song called Borders has “distorted” the team’s image.
The video, which has garnered more than a million views since going up on YouTube in late November, is a commentary on the recent Syrian refugee crisis.
In it, M.I.A. is shown for a few seconds wearing a PSG jersey that reads “Fly Pirates” instead of “Fly Emirates,” the team’s main sponsor, alongside other sponsor logos such as Qatar National Bank.
PSG is owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
In a statement shared by the singer on Twitter this week, PSG’s deputy CEO Jean Claude Blanc threatened legal action over the jersey, saying it violates the French civil code.
He cited news articles that used M.I.A’s video as a jumping-off point for criticism of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, saying:
“You unduly took advantage of our popularity and reputation to enhance the attractiveness of your artist and consequently the profits of your company.”
In a letter dated Dec. 14, Blanc asked M.I.A to stop broadcasting the video within “24 hours.”
He also insisted that the rapper refrain from using PSG’s brand and image without its authorization and that she compensate the club for “the harm we have suffered.”
M.I.A., who has previously been sued by the NFL for raising her middle finger during a Superbowl half-time show, does not appear to have honored those requests.
According to Blanc, wearing the jersey was also unfair because PSG’s charity arm donated 1 million euros to help the refugee crisis last fall.
“We consider that the use of our brand and image in a video clip denouncing the treatment of refugees is a source of discredit for our club and distorts its public communication policy,” he said.
For her part, M.I.A. has criticized PSG for raising the issue, saying migrants and refugees often wear sports gear. On Twitter, she said:
However, speaking to Vice, she said she did not don the jersey to insult Qatar or the UAE:
“I was thinking about the bigger picture, which is that way more people are going to die at sea if we don’t do something. We’re in the thick of winter. Yeah, 1,200 people dying at the stadium [in Qatar] is one thing, but I’m sure 1,200 people have died at sea already, and we can do something about that.”