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Keep halftime ‘friendly, safe,’ PTC urges Timberlake

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (BP) — The last time Justin Timberlake headlined a Super Bowl halftime show, host broadcasting company CBS was slapped with a federal fine for indecency.

Ahead of Timberlake’s halftime performance at Super Bowl LII on Sunday (Feb. 4), the Parents Television Council (PTC) is urging him to steer clear of any moves that could rival the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” of 2004. That was when the highly acclaimed artist was dancing a choreographed routine with Janet Jackson and somehow ripped off part of her top, exposing flesh.

“We ask you to keep the halftime show friendly and safe for the children watching, and who may be hoping to emulate you one day,” the PTC wrote Jan. 30 on its watchdog blog in an open letter to Timberlake. “The Super Bowl, and particularly its halftime show, should be the hallmark of entertainment that’s both appealing and a safe place for the entire family.”

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ethicist Evan Lenow recalls “wondering in disbelief” during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime 14 years ago. He applauds the PTC for urging Timberlake to consider the audience.

“In the immediate aftermath of the 2004 show, the NFL seemed to make a conscious decision to use ‘safer’ musical acts than the pair of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. We also saw an increased video delay of live events to prevent the same thing from happening again,” Lenow told Baptist Press today (Jan. 31). “Now that 14 years have passed, I am not certain that the NFL is as concerned about decency as they were immediately following that controversial event. However, I believe they should be.”

Michael Foust, a Southern Baptist entertainment critic who hosts a family-life podcast for Heirloom Audio, said Super Bowl halftime shows rarely make the cut at his home.

“Super Bowl Sunday in my home involves only four things: family, food, football, and funny commercials. With the rare exception, the halftime show doesn’t make the cut,” Foust told BP. “Yes, the content has become tamer since the infamous 2004 Super Bowl incident, but too often the halftime show still includes sexualized images I’d rather my young children not see — not to mention lyrics I’d rather them not hear.”

For Foust, his wife Julie and four children under the age of 10, the remote control “will be very nearby” if Timberlake is in view.

Lenow, a husband and father of four, will also proceed with caution.

“At the end of the day, the typical Super Bowl halftime show is probably not completely family friendly, and I will most likely not let my children watch it live,” Lenow told BP. “We may record the game and go back and watch it later after my wife and I have had the chance to review it.”

Timberlake, in recent media interviews, said he has made amends with Jackson and plans to keep his performance within standards.

“We’re not going to do that again,” Timberlake said in a Jan. 17 interview on Beats 1 global radio. “I stumbled through it. To be quite honest, I had my wires crossed. It’s just something that you have to look back on and go, ‘OK, well, you can’t change what’s happened, but you can move forward and learn from it.'”