SportsPulse: With Justin Timberlake set to make his return to the big game for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVIII, USA TODAY’s Josh Peter looks back at how ‘Nipplegate’ unfolded, and if we can expect a comeback from Janet Jackson, too.
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Justin Timberlake is set to perform the Super Bowl LII halftime show at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 4. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. and the halftime show should begin around 8:20 p.m. or so.
It’s Timberlake’s third appearance on football’s big stage. He performed in 2001 with his former band, ‘NSYNC, and in 2004 with Janet Jackson.
You might remember it: “Wardrobe malfunction” “Nipplegate.”
“That won’t happen this time,” Timberlake told NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico in October. “There was a little bit of that (talk). But no, Mike, that’s not going to happen.”
In 2004, Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson’s top while singing the lyric “gonna have you naked by the end of this song” from his funk-lite hit, “Rock Your Body.” He said it wasn’t intentional and called it a “wardrobe malfunction,” a phrase that became part of the national lexicon.
Since then, Timberlake has had a successful music and film career, and he’s releasing a new album, “Man of the Woods,” on Friday, Feb. 2. The Man of the Woods Tour plays the Prudential Center in Newark on Sunday, March 25.
“I think his fan base has grown,” said DJ Deejay, aka David Cassidy of Philly, one of the city’s leading disc jockeys. “Maybe you were in your early 20s and you didn’t like ‘NSYNC, but now you can be 42 and find Justin Timberlake quite appealing. I also think his work with Jimmy Fallon on television made him more popular.”
Timberlake is often a guest on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
“They’re very charming together, him and Fallon,” DJ Deejay said. “It’s like a Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra for a different generation.”
Speaking of different generations, Timberlake is appealing to the very young set thanks to his work in the animated 2016 hit “Trolls.” He voiced the lead troll, Branch, and had an Academy Award-winning hit from the film, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
“Trust me, I have to play the song from that ‘Trolls’ movie, ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling!’ The kids love it,” said musician Pamela Flores, who teaches singing at the Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park. “It’s one of the newer songs I don’t mind playing over and over again for a month.”
Yet, for all Timberlake has done right in his career, public missteps are starting to show him to be out of step in today’s climate. In 2016, his response to Black Lives Matter activist Jesse Williams’ BET Awards speech drew condemnation from those who wanted to know when he was going “to stop appropriating our music and culture?”
A more recent tweet in support on the #TimesUp movement, which seeks to support those who have experienced sexual harassment, assault or abuse in the workplace, drew the ire of Dylan Farrow, who said it was hypocritical on Timberlake’s part because he had just voiced praise for Farrow’s dad, Woody Allen, whom Dylan Farrow has accused of sexually molesting her as a child.
“You can’t support #TIMESUP and praise sexual predators at the same time,” Farrow tweeted.
Then, it’s back to the 2004 halftime performance. While Timberlake’s career was largely unaffected by the controversy, Jackson’s star power seemed diminished after the incident. As the 2004 halftime show was produced by MTV, MTV and parent company Viacom blacklisted Jackson from future programming as retribution, according to Rolling Stone.
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Jackson was to appear on the 2004 Grammys in a tribute to Luther Vandross, but was reportedly dropped from the broadcast in the wake of the scandal while Timberlake stayed on.
Nearly 15 years later, Jackson fans erupted online when news broke of Timberlake’s upcoming Super Bowl halftime show appearance. A #JusticeForJanet hashtag went viral.
“Weird how the guy who tore Janet Jackson’s shirt off was invited back and she wasn’t. Almost like men are treated better than women,” tweeted a fan.
“It does appear to be white male privilege,” said New York City radio personality and activist Raqiyah Mays. “Justin never stood up for Janet — I don’t remember him apologizing. Janet took all of the blame.”
“It reminds me of a historical precedent that continually plays in our culture against black women where black women are shamed – over-sexualized and shamed for it,” Mays said. “It makes me think of images of being abused and raped and naked and being shamed for it because the clothes were ripped off by the slave owner.”
Timberlake has never formally apologized publicly, but in a recent interview with Apple Beats 1, he said he did so to Jackson.
“I don’t think it’s my job to do that (discuss what he said to Jackson) because you value the relationships that you do have with people,” Timberlake said.
The NFL said in October that Jackson is not banned from the Super Bowl.
“The NFL has a difficult and controversial history when it comes to women’s rights, when it comes to domestic violence,” Mays said.
A video of running back Ray Rice assaulting his fiancee in Atlantic City in 2014 drew national attention to the situation. Yet, in the last pro draft, six college players who had been accused of physical or sexual assaults were drafted, according to USA Today. The NFL did not respond to an interview request for this story.
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Welcoming Timberlake back to the Super Bowl halftime stage does not set a good example, Mays said.
“To have him performing in the midst of a women’s movement, he not only exposed Janet’s nipple but he never apologized for it,” Mays said. “This all fits in very well in the outlook the NFL has painted about itself and its outlook on men’s and women’s issues.”
The Super Bowl is the NFL’s big show. The New England Patriots are taking on the Philadelphia Eagles. Pink is set to sing the national anthem before the game.
“If Justin Timberlake does the same performance as he did in 2004 and he brings out Janet Jackson and they do that similar routine and they do it right, that would be pure vindication and he would make headlines, worldwide,” Mays said. “It would help Justin and it would be a thumbs up for having Jackson perform.”
Chris Jordan: [email protected] Twitter: @chrisfhjordan
SUPER BOWL LII HALFTIME SHOW
WHO: Justin Timberlake
WHEN: Approximately 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4. Game starts 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
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