A Timeline of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl Halftime Controversy
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Here's a play-by-play of what went down.
Typically, the Super Bowl is remembered by an exciting game ending with a football team deemed champion, but 2004's Super Bowl XXXVIII was overshadowed by a halftime show that goes down in the books as one of the most talked-about halftime show performances in history.
While the show was nonetheless entertaining, it ended in scandal. The two players at the center of the controversy? Legendary Janet Jackson and pop singer Justin Timberlake.
Jackson was the headliner that year, and Timberlake was the surprise guest, however, his surprise appearance quickly turned to shock when he infamously ripped off Jackson's top, exposing her bare breast on live television.
RELATED: The 9 Most Controversial Super Bowl Halftime Moments of All Time
Since the incident, which has since been referred to as "Nipplegate," fingers have been pointed in an attempt to place blame on who's responsible for what went down.
The New York Times released a documentary in November 2021, titled Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson, examining the cultural and racial clash that ensued on stage — however, it only includes interviews with NFL and MTV executives who were present at the game that night.
Gregg DeGuire/Getty; Isa Foltin/Getty Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake
Now, Jackson is releasing a tell-all documentary of her own where she will address the Super Bowl incident herself. Titled Janet, the documentary will also touch on untold aspects of her personal life and career, airing in two parts on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29.
As we wait for Jackson to tell her side of the story, keep scrolling for a timeline of the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004.
RELATED: Here Are the Biggest Revelations from Janet Jackson's New Lifetime Documentary — So Far
December 2003: Janet Jackson is announced to headline the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show
Dave J Hogan/Getty Janet Jackson
The National Football League (NFL) announced in December 2003 that Jackson would headline the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show and it would be produced by MTV, who also produced the 2001 show with Britney Spears, Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, *NSYNC, and Nelly as performers.
Jackson was originally slated to headline 2002's halftime, according to Entertainment Weekly, but was replaced by U2. Shania Twain and No Doubt were tapped to headline in 2003.
Jan. 28, 2004: Janet Jackson's choreographer teases "shocking moments"
Details were kept under wraps in the days leading up to the event, but a quote from one of Jackson's choreographers raised eyebrows after she spoke with MTV News.
The article, which was published on Jan. 28, 2004, not only revealed that Jessica Simpson, Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock would appear as guest performers, but the dancer also teased that "there are some shocking moments in there too."
Feb. 1, 2004: Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl incident takes place
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When Jackson took the stage, she dazzled viewers with an electrifying performance as she sang and danced to a rendition of her 2001 hit, "All For You." After exiting the scene for guests Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock to take their turn, she returned to perform "Rhythm Nation."
As her second song came to an end and the overpopulated stage of backup dancers dispersed, Timberlake emerged to sing "Rock Your Body," in which he and Jackson were the only two left on stage.
The moment Timberlake uttered the lyrics, "Bet I'll have you naked by the end of this song," the music suddenly stopped as his hand wrapped around Jackson's body in a choreographed move.
As he delivered the final lyric, Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson's top, baring her breast.
Feb. 1, 2004: Justin Timberlake and MTV release initial statements
Later that night, Timberlake and MTV issued statements to MTV News acknowledging the incident.
In his statement, Timberlake said, "I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable."
Meanwhile, MTV said, "The tearing of Janet Jackson's costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance. MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it."
As for Jackson, her representatives told MTV News that "she apologizes for the incident."
Feb. 2, 2004: Janet Jackson releases initial statements
Jackson later released her own statement, describing the situation as a planned "costume reveal," in contrast to Timberlake's statement referring to it as "unintentional."
"The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals," said Jackson. "MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended — including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL."
Following the incident, USA Today spoke with body piercer Byriah Dailey, whom Jackson's stylist, Wayne Scot Lukas, got nipple jewelry from before the show.
"At the end of it, while we were talking, [Lukas] was like, 'OK, watch the halftime show. There's going to be a surprise at the end,'" Dailey told the outlet. "I had a pair of them,'' he added. "I still have the other one, believe it or not. They only purchased one. … I was kind of happy to get rid of it."
Feb. 3, 2004: The Federal Communications Commission launches an investigation
Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images
After receiving more than half a million complaints, the FCC held an investigation that probed the entirety of the halftime show performance in an attempt to determine if the act violated the Commission's indecency standards.
"I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl," the FCC chairman Michael Powell said in a statement. "Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."
According to The Washington Post, Viacom's 200 owned and affiliate stations were threatened with a penalty of up to $27,500 if indecency violations were found, plus penalties against CBS, Jackson, Timberlake, and each performer involved.
Ultimately, the FCC fined CBS a record $550,000 for airing the "wardrobe malfunction" but it was later voided by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Some of Jackson's music was also blacklisted by radio and television stations as a result.
Feb. 3, 2004: Media places blame
Following the incident, MTV Chief Executive Tom Freston claimed that "Janet Jackson engineered it" in an interview with Reuters.
While Jackson relentlessly took the heat in the stint's aftermath, Timberlake later opened up about the performance during an interview with local TV station KCBS on Feb. 4.
He noted that he was "frustrated at the whole situation," adding, "I'm frustrated that my character is being questioned and the fact of the matter is, you know, I've had a good year, a really good year, especially with my music."
Feb. 8, 2004: Justin Timberlake wins two Grammy Awards
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The 46th annual Grammy Awards was significant, yet distinct for both Timberlake and Jackson.
Due to CBS's "serious reservations" regarding Jackson and Timberlake's attendance at the Grammys, the network placed the decision in the Recording Academy's hands. Their attendance was contingent upon their decision to make an on-air apology.
Per a statement from CBS, "Ms. Jackson declined the invitation. Mr. Timberlake accepted."
During the show, Timberlake nabbed two of the biggest awards of the night, album of the year and best pop vocal album. During one of his acceptance speeches, he publicly apologized, saying, "What occurred was unintentional, completely regrettable, and I apologize if you guys are offended."
March 22, 2004: Janet Jackson debuts new album
In contrast to Timberlake's career high just a month prior, Jackson faced a career low in the wake of her eighth studio album titled Damita Jo. After working on the project for nearly 18 months, it underperformed, making it one of her lowest-selling albums since 1984.
The NYT documentary, Malfunction, comprehensively details how the entertainment industry distanced itself from Jackson, while simultaneously accelerating the career of Timberlake.
February 2005: YouTube was created and inspired by "Nipplegate"
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In 2004, there was no such thing as a "viral video" or a place to rewatch clips online. The "if you missed it, you missed it," phrase was ever so real until Chad Hurley, Steven Cehn, and Jawed Karim came up with a solution: YouTube.
The creators of YouTube later noted that they were partially inspired by the Super Bowl incident that took place just a year prior when they created the social media platform.
Sept. 25, 2006: Janet Jackson opens up to Oprah Winfrey
Aside from Jackson's personal statement released the day after the Super Bowl, she addressed the performance again during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006.
Oprah introduced the segment by stating, "This will be the first and the last time that [Jackson] ever talks about what happened that day," followed by the question, "Was it planned?"
Jackson replied "No," before further explaining, "What people don't understand is, he was supposed to take and rip the [leather] piece of that he did, but more came off than what was supposed to."
She continued to explain that she regretted making the apology that she did 24 hours after the incident "because it was an accident."
Feb. 4, 2018: Justin Timberlake headlines the Super Bowl LII halftime show
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Timberlake returned to the Super Bowl stage in 2018 as the headlining act. Not only did he perform 11 of his songs, in contrast to Jackson's two, but he subtly made reference to the 2004 incident during his performance of "Rock Your Body."
However, before delivering the infamous lyric, "Bet I'll have you naked by the end of this song," Timberlake said, "Hold on, stop!" before the music transitioned to a new song in his medley of hits.
Feb. 12, 2021: Justin Timberlake issues his first direct apology to Janet Jackson
Ahead of the 2018 Super Bowl, Apple Music's Zane Lowe asked Timberlake on Beats 1 if he and Jackson "resolved the situation" and "made peace of the whole thing," to which the singer responded, "Absolutely."
He added, "I don't know that a lot of people know that. I mean, I don't think it's my job to do that, because you value the relationships that you do have with people."
It wasn't until three years later on Feb. 12, 2021, that Timberlake penned his first direct apology to Jackson, following the release of the NYT's documentary Framing Britney Spears.
He wrote his thoughts in a lengthy Instagram post that read, "I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed."
Jan. 1, 2022: Janet Jackson releases Janet documentary trailer
A&E Janet Jackson in Janet
The two-part documentary released its trailer on Jan. 1, teasing clips from her controversial Super Bowl halftime performance. In addition to sharing untold stories from her personal life, she's set to address the scandal once again.
Janet premieres Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 on Lifetime and A&E, in honor of the 40th anniversary of her debut album.