Justin Timberlake Urged to Keep Super Bowl Halftime Show Kid-Friendly After "Nipplegate"

Pop singer will headline the Super Bowl LII halftime show 14 years after his now-famous "wardrobe malfunction" performance with Janet Jackson during the 2004 NFL championship game

By Corinne Heller Jan 31, 2018 5:00 PMTags

The conservative media watchdog group the Parents Television Council has issued an "urgent appeal" to Justin Timberlake to not let history repeat itself at the 2018 Super Bowl.

The pop singer will headline the Super Bowl LII halftime show on Sunday, 14 years after his now-famous performance with Janet Jackson during the 2004 NFL championship game, during which he ripped off part of her top, exposing one of her nipple-shield-adorned breasts to the almost 90 million viewers. The incident birthed the phrase "wardrobe malfunction," drew half a million complaints and spurred a Federal Communications Commission investigation and indecency fines, which were later reversed.

"The fallout of your performance during Super Bowl XXXVIII has left an indelible mark. You really threw us—and millions of parents who were watching with their kids. The now-infamous wardrobe malfunction was the biggest news story for weeks, even at a time when the nation had launched into war in Iraq," the Parents Television Council said in a letter released on Tuesday. "As we approach this Sunday's Super Bowl LII and its halftime show during which you'll be performing, we ask you to keep the halftime show friendly and safe for the children watching, and who may be hoping to emulate you one day."

"Thank you for considering our urgent appeal for a positive, uplifting and entertaining halftime show on Sunday. Because our Children are Watching," the group said. "Break a leg."

Celeb Wardrobe Malfunctions
AP Photo/David Phillip, file

Court battles were launched over the Timberlake-Jackson incident, also dubbed "Nipplegate." In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to throw out a federal agency's $550,000 indecency fine against CBS for airing the "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl.

CBS had forced Jackson to release a video apology over "Nipplegate."

My decision to change the Super Bowl performance was made after the final rehearsal," she said. "MTV, CBS [and] the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever and unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my intention."

"Justin was supposed to pull away the rubber bustier to reveal a red lace bra," her rep said at the time. "The garment collapsed and her breast was accidentally revealed."

In 2006, Timberlake told MTV News, "I'm a part of a community that consider themselves artists...and if there's something that I could have done in her defense, that was more, that I could have realized, then I would have."

"It's an understatement to say it was sort of unfair, if you consider 50-50, I mean, I probably got 10 percent of the blame," he said. "I think that says something about society. I think that America is harsher on women and I think that America is unfairly harsh on ethnic people."

Timberlake talked about "Nipplegate" again in an interview with Beats 1 host Zane Lowe.

"I stumbled through it," Timberlake said about the aftermath. "To be quite honest, like, I had my wires crossed. "It's just something that you have to look back on and go like, 'OK, you can't change what's happened, but you can move forward and learn from it.'"