Justin Timberlake finally apologizes to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson after intense online backlash

It took him almost 20 years to right this wrong.
February 12, 2021 2:08 p.m. EST

The reaction to the now-infamous New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears has been swift and intense. Not only are celebrities across the board criticizing the conservatorship she has been under for 13 years, but society at large is demanding answers from those who profited from her mental health struggles – most notably ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake. For years, Twitter has been telling the “SexyBack” singer to apologize to Britney for mocking her both in song and in performance, and also to issue a second mea culpa to Janet Jackson for ignoring the career-ruination she faced after their infamous “wardrobe malfunction” duet at the Super Bowl.

Justin Timberlake can no longer ignore the harm he has done, and today he issued an apology on his official Instagram account, saying he is “deeply sorry” and acknowledging that he “failed” both women.

“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” he wrote on Friday morning. “I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”

“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.”

He concluded his statement by saying, “I also feel compelled to respond, in part, because everyone involved deserves better and most importantly, because this is a larger conversation that I wholeheartedly want to be part of and grow from.”

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After co-starring on The Mickey Mouse Club together as pre-teens, Justin and Britney dated in the late '90s and early 2000s when they were still teens. After they broke up, Justin took several pot-shots at Britney through his music and in the media. For his notorious music video for “Cry Me A River,” a song about a girl who cheats on her man (it had been speculated in the media that Britney had cheated on him), Justin hired a Britney look-a-like to star. Years later, he took another jab at her in his “What Goes Around . . . Comes Around” music video where his cheating ex, played by former flame Scarlett Johannsson, dies in a violent car crash.

At other points since then, most notably when Britney’s mental health struggles were splashed across the media, Justin altered the lyrics of both Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” to mock Britney. At the time, etalk’s own Lainey wrote that Justin changed the lyrics of both songs in concert to “they tried to make her go to rehab, she said no, no, no” and “I remember when, I remember I remember when she lost her mind,” respectively.

All of this continued despite Britney releasing a supposed apology of-sorts to Justin through her song, “Everytime” where she sings, “My weakness caused you a pain/and this song’s my sorry.”

In terms of the “wardrobe malfunction” incident at the 2004 Super Bowl, while both singers performed the NSFW dance number, only Janet Jackson suffered the consequences, with her career in shambles, and she was a persona non grata at every music function, awards ceremony, and with every record exec. Justin, however, suffered no consequences, probably due to him being a white male, and he remained silent while the mob tried to destroy a Black woman’s career. Justin was even allowed to return to the Super Bowl halftime show in 2018, while Janet has been permanently banned.

For many fans, this apology comes 20 years too late, and they are not yet ready to accept his words.

This isn’t the first time Justin has had to issue an apology via Instagram. In late 2019, he issued an apology to his wife Jessica Biel after photos emerged from the set of his movie Palmer of him getting a little too cozy with his costar Alisha Wainwright.

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