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On Feb. 1, 2004, the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Sure, the game was thrilling, with quarterback Tom Brady leading the Patriots to victory. But the only thing anyone was talking about the day after - and are still talking about - was Nipplegate. During the halftime show, Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s right breast and the rest is history. It’s hard to believe it, but it’s been 10 years since that.
Timberlake was performing his then-biggest hit, “Rock Your Body,” which conveniently ends with the line “Bet I'll have you naked by the end of this song.” At that moment, he pulled Jackson’s outfit and her boob popped out. She covered her chest, looking embarrassed as fireworks launched and the camera cut away.
“Justin was supposed to pull away the rubber bustier to reveal a red lace bra,” Jackson’s rep said in 2004, notes E! News. “The garment collapsed and her breast was accidentally revealed.”
CBS almost paid a heavy price for the incident. The FCC did fine CBS $550,000, but it was later voided by a court of appeals.
Jackson later did a video apology, claiming that she made a last-second change to the show, which CBS and the NFL didn’t know about. “I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my intention,” she said.
MTV was also involved, but the network would never take part in the halftime show again.
For Jackson, it left her career in shambles. At the time, she was promoting a new album, Damita Jo, but many networks boycotted promotions and it was buried. E! notes that it was her worst-selling release since 1984.
The bigger impact was on the NFL’s decisions for halftime shows. For several years, the league picked relatively safe artists like The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. (Of course, everyone should recall that the Stones were hardly ‘safe’ when they started.) However, the league has eased off and picked Madonna, who performed with M.I.A. (who flipped the bird). This year, there’s Bruno Mars, definitely a safe pick again, but at least he’ll appeal to the younger viewers at home.
And whatever happened to Justin Timberlake? An ESPN Magazine story notes that he never really talked about it, but his career just kept rolling on. In 2013, he had the best-selling album of the year, The 20/20 Experience.
image: YouTube screenshot