Almost 14 years after the 2004 Super Bowl half-time performance, the internet is abuzz with chatter about what was once the “most searched item in Internet history” – Nipplegate – and Justin Timberlake’s role in it.
To recap the event that signalled the end of Janet Jackson’s mainstream career: While performing ‘Rock Your Body’ alongside the female pop icon, singer and pop star Timberlake sang the last line, “I’ll have you naked by the end of this song”, and instead of pulling off Janet’s corset to reveal a red lace garment underneath, ripped off the right breast piece entirely, exposing Jackson’s bare nipple to 140 million live viewers.
It became the most recorded and replayed moment in TiVo history.
Of the incident – which saw the now 51-year-old rush onto a flight home before the end of the game – Jackson commented: “I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my intention … MTV, CBS, the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever, and unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end.” Meanwhile, Timberlake’s team jotted Nipplegate down as a “wardrobe malfunction”.
The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) called it a "a classless, crass, and deplorable stunt", event sponsor AOL asked the NFL for a refund, and immediately after the performance CBS rescinded Jackson's invite to present a Luther Vandross tribute at the 2004 Grammy's.
In contrast, Timberlake was still allowed to attend, won two awards, and then used his acceptance speech to apologise for any offence caused.
"Listen, I know it's best a rough week on everybody," Timberlake said at the awards ceremony. "What occurred was unintentional and completely regrettable, and I apologise if you guys were offended."