What Has Justin Timberlake Said About the 'Nipplegate' Super Bowl Performance? Not Much, but He Has Apologized

Justin Timberlake—singer, actor, professional charming person—is reportedly close to finalizing a deal to perform at the Super Bowl this year, according to a report from US Weekly Wednesday. 

This, of course, took everyone back to 2004, when Timberlake was involved in the infamous "Nipplegate" scandal. On live TV (on a Sunday afternoon, as Chris Rock famously pointed out), the singer pulled at the breast-area of the leather outfit worn by co-performer Janet Jackson—right as he sung the lyric "gonna have you naked by the end of this song" in his hit "Rock Your Body"—revealing her nipple, covered only by a piece of jewelry. "Nipplegate" was born. It was a massive scandal since the Super Bowl, obviously, is a huge TV event broadcast to the widest possible audience, numbering in the tens of millions of people.

Jackson ended up taking the brunt of the blowback, despite Timberlake obviously deserving at least half of the blame. It was famously dubbed a "wardrobe malfunction" and, apparently, the stunt was supposed to reveal a red lace bra, but things went haywire. But just a week later, Timberlake was wryly talking about it during an acceptance speech at the Grammys. 

"Listen, I know it's been a rough week on everybody," Timberlake said to the 2004 Grammys audience, getting some laughs. "What occurred was unintentional, completely regrettable, and I apologize if you guys were offended."

Jackson was effectively disinvited from the same awards show and for years shouldered the weight of the scandal. Lots of folks on Twitter Wednesday found it absurd that Timberlake has reportedly been invited back to the Super Bowl stage and allowed to fully move on from the affair, while Jackson seems stuck in superstar purgatory.

Timberlake has, over the years, expressed regret over how Jackson was treated in the wake of "Nipplegate."

"In my honest opinion now...I could've handled it better," he said to MTV in 2007. "I'm part of a community that consider themselves artists. And if there was something I could have done in her defense that was more than I realized then, I would have. But the other half of me was like, 'Wow. We still haven't found the weapons of mass destruction, and everybody cares about this!'... I probably got 10 percent of the blame, and that says something about society. I think that America's harsher on women. And I think that America is, you know, unfairly harsh on ethnic people."

But more recently, he hasn't seemed thrilled about chatting about the subject (although if he really does perform at the Super Bowl this year, he'd better get used to it). When ESPN the Magazine revisited the scandal in 2014, the singer bristled at being asked about what he took away from the incident.

"I take that I chose not to comment on it still, after 10 years," he said. "I'm not touching that thing with a 10-foot pole."