S e c t i o n F o u r
The annual professional football championship game, known as the "Super Bowl "
is an event with no rival in American sports where the spectacle surrounding
the event is often far more focal than the game itself. Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004
was no exception.
The 2004 Super Bowl halftime spectacular was produced by MTV and included
musical performances from Nelly , Justin Timberlake , P. Diddy , Kid Rock , and
Janet Jackson . During the performance's medley of songs, Timberlake planned to
reach across Jackson's costume and yank off the outer layer. However, during the
actual performance there was what Timberlake later referred to as a "wardrobe
malfunction." When Timberlake grabbed and pulled at the costume, it removed
the entire section covering Jackson's right breast. The malfunction resulted in
Jackson's breast being exposed on live television for three seconds before she real-
ized what happened and covered herself.
The following day, the story reverberated through the media echo chamber ,
creating a visceral dispute that wouldn't abate for months. Television talk shows
berated Jackson's "crass," "deplorable," and "lewd" antic, yet played video of the
event over and over again. The automated television recording company Tivo
said the brief exposure was the most recorded and replayed event in their
As public outrage swelled, the National Football League , CBS television
network, and MTV all disavowed the incident, saying they had no advance knowl-
edge of the planned choreography. Further, both Timberlake and Jackson apolo-
gized in public statements (with Jackson publicly apologizing for the incident on
three separate occasions). Timberlake told reporters for KCBS-TV that he was
"shocked and appalled" by what had occurred at the Super Bowl . "All I could say
was, `Oh my God. Oh, my God.' I looked at her. They brought a towel up on stage.
They covered her up. I was completely embarrassed and just walked off the stage
as quickly as I could. I'm frustrated by the whole situation. I'm frustrated that my
character is being questioned."