Justin Timberlake got off scot-free following the Super Bowl nipplegate (Picture: Getty Images)
Considering he hopes to sell tickets for his world tour and is fresh from almighty backlash over his treatment of ex-girlfriend Britney Spears, this is a very bold stance to take for a man whose reputation is on the line.
Not to mention, it came just a few hours before the clock struck midnight on the 20th anniversary of the 2004 Super Bowl nipplegate.
Yes, today is February 1, 2024 and it’s been 20 years since Justin, 42, ripped part of Janet Jackson’s top during the halftime show and exposed her breast in front of the world.
It was Sunday, February 1, 2004, and Justin and Janet, 54, were among a host of musicians headlining the coveted halftime show. The pair had the honour of closing out the 13-minute set with a performance of his song Rock Your Body.
As Justin sang his last line: ‘Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,’ he tore off part of her costume to reveal her breast, with her nipple covered by a sun-shaped shield.
We’ve seen it all now in 2024 but this was particularly scandalous for its time on primetime television.
The fallout was immense with an MTV exec admitting it was a stunt but blaming Janet, only for another spokesperson to reveal it was a team decision. However, her breast was never intended to be exposed.
In a video apology, Janet later said: ‘The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals. MTV was completely unaware of it.
‘It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. MTV, CBS, [and] the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever and, unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I apologise to anyone offended, including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL.’
Justin also said: ‘I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable.’
But Janet became the fall guy.
We’re two decades on and she still hasn’t received the full apology she deserves – from Justin, the TV network and all parties involved. Her image was tarnished as a result of that event.
However, Justin remained pop’s golden boy.
Yet, in recent years, he seems determined to prove that this is an unfitting description for him.
Last night, when Justin appeared to throw shade at Britney, 42, it came across as though he’s learned absolutely nothing from his missteps.
In October, he felt the wrath of Britney fans when she detailed the breakdown of their 90s romance in her memoir, The Woman In Me.
Janet Jackson was absolutely crucified in the fallout (Picture: WireImage)
Britney Spears apologised to Justin but it should have been the other way around (Picture: WireImage)
The pop icon explained the impact of being accused of cheating on Justin when he was also allegedly unfaithful to her. She also claimed how Justin ‘wasn’t happy’ when she fell pregnant during their relationship, later having an abortion, and how he dumped her in a two-word text message.
So I was surprised to hear Justin tell an audience he’s apologising to ‘absolutely f*****g nobody.’
Because, besides Britney, there is someone else he should be properly apologising to.
It’s never felt like Janet has received the full redemption she deserved after nipplegate.
Sure, she’s still well-loved and regarded as one of the greatest pop stars of all time, but the taint after that massive fiasco still lingers 20 years later and hangs like a bitter taste in the air.
Janet was crucified after the incident, which regardless of what was agreed between them backstage, was the direct result of Justin’s actions. He essentially got off scot-free and went on to release music with virtually no scratches while Janet continued receiving the brunt of the criticism, being slammed by politicians, network executives and the media.
In 2021, Justin issued an apology to both Britney and Janet in the same breath but the two situations were completely different and deserved their own space.
With so much interest in Justin and Britney’s relationship, the magnitude of what Janet experienced was overshadowed.
Justin’s comeback may need some damage control (Picture: Getty Images)
In his statement at the time, Justin said: ‘I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed. I also feel compelled to respond, in part, because everyone involved deserves better and most importantly, because this is a larger conversation that I wholeheartedly want to be part of and grow from.’
He added: ‘I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again…
‘I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.’
Surely, he had to have known that at a time when people are begging for him to apologise to Britney and Janet, his recent rebellion on stage would only exacerbate the negativity towards him.
Not only was it a bad PR move, it just supports the perception that he hasn’t done the work to change.
We don’t want to dislike Justin – there’s nothing worse than one of your favourite stars from your childhood disappointing you in adulthood. We love an accountable king. However, he certainly doesn’t make it easy to support him.
It will be interesting to see how his latest comment will impact his comeback. Will fans shun his tour? Will he have a change of heart?
With this year’s Super Bowl around the corner and the nipplegate anniversary upon us, the reminder of how Janet was treated will be a sore point for her fans. Justin hasn’t done himself any favours but, judging by the onslaught against him after last night, he might want to rethink his strategy.
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