The “Sexy Back” crooner turned heads in February 2004 when he grabbed Jackson’s leather top during the Super Bowl XXXVI halftime show, revealing her bare breast to millions of viewers.
The “wardrobe malfunction” has since stirred a lot of controversy. While both Timberlake and Jackson issued statements apologizing to fans for the incident, the story has never fully been put to rest.
In February 2021, the “Can’t Stop the Feeling” crooner apologized via an Instagram statement to both Jackson and Britney Spears for his alleged mistreatment of women in Hollywood over the years. His comments came after his past romance with the “Toxic” singer resurfaced as part of the New York Times Presents “Framing Britney Spears” documentary.
At the time, Timberlake explained how he could have been a better ally to both Spears, whom he dated from 1999 to 2002, and Jackson, who took the majority of the heat after their Super Bowl fail.
“The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position, I have to be vocal about this,” he wrote in a statement at the time, referencing Spears’ conservatorship battle and the overall treatment of women in music. “Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life, but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.”
Timberlake vowed to change his behavior moving forward. “I have not been perfect in navigating all of this throughout my career. I know this apology is a first step and doesn’t absolve the past,” he added. “I want to take accountability for my own missteps in all of this as well as be part of a world that uplifts and supports. I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better, and I will do better.”
The apology seemingly brought even more attention to Timberlake and Jackson’s past as FX and Hulu announced a new episode of “Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson,” set to air in November 2021.
“In 2004, a culture war was brewing when the Super Bowl halftime show audience saw a white man expose a Black woman’s breast for 9/16ths of a second. A national furor ensued. ‘If the culture wars could have a 9/11, it’s February 1st, 2004,’ said one observer,” the press release read for the documentary. “The woman was Janet Jackson, and her career was never the same. The man was Justin Timberlake; his stardom only grew. The New York Times examines the racial and cultural currents that collided on the Super Bowl stage, and explores how the incident impacted one of the most successful pop musicians in history.”
Scroll down to relive all of Timberlake’s comments about the Super Bowl drama with Jackson over the years: