The Most Controversial Super Bowl Moments

January 24, 2015
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The Most Controversial Super Bowl Moments

Super Bowl XLIX will be about much more than the New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks.

Even if #DeflateGate has whipped up a mild storm, the Patriots’ place in one of the world’s biggest sporting showpieces doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. And so, from the other corner, comes a frenzy of interest in advertisements, the half-time show and any potential controversies and catastrophes.

Ah yes. With an estimated 111.5 million US viewers watching the Seahawks flatten the Denver Broncos in last year’s final, there will be more than enough of that crowd waiting for a moment that will spark chatter the world over.

And why shouldn’t they? Even in the last few years we’ve witnessed enough weirdness to sate our appetite for aggravation. With the big game taking place on February 1st in Arizona, what better way to get into the mood with some of our favorite controversial Super Bowl moments that occurred while play was stopped? In some cases, those involved would have preferred to take the field against a team of bruising athletes instead of facing the fallout they did!


Eleven years on, it’s still hard to tell what this was all about. Depending on how you view it, Janet Jackson’s tit-flash to the world was either a total mishap or a rather suspicious-looking ‘accident’. Nonetheless, it generated enough of a media melee to see Jackson’s career spin out of orbit and never fully recover.

Super Bowl XXXVIII’s half-time show saw Michael’s brother and the Trouser Snake himself, Justin Timberlake, perform a medley together. At the routine’s climax, with both center stage, JT pulled off one of the cup’s of Janet’s shiny-looking costume, revealing a secondary glimpse of boob and what looked like a pretty uncomfortable piece of nipple jewellery.

The result? Fairly predictable, as it happens. The puritanical coneheads that run around the corridors of TV HQ flagellating themselves decided to impose heavy fines, new regulations and an order that similar televised events and displays faced a five-second-delay on their live broadcasts.

Not long after Ms Jackson displayed one single breast to the world, millions of people worldwide resumed watching 22 massive guys smash the shit out of each other, but whatever.

There were, helpfully, some positives to be had from the mess. YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim claims the incident was partly responsible for the creation of YouTube. Jackson also ended up entering the Guinness Book of World Records for the amount of internet searches done in her name. That’s still probably worth more than a Grammy. Embrace it.

(Note: the incident occurs from around 5:20 onwards in the below video. If you really want to sit through the whole performance then be our guest! It is, of course, NSFW.)


You didn’t think you could get away so easily, did you? Perish the thought! Super Bowl 2004 threw up even more oddities.

If Janet’s boob wasn’t enough, not long after that exposure, a streaker ran onto the turf, much to both the delight and horror of those witnessing it.

Other performers also came under scrutiny from the all-seeing critical eye: P. Diddy and Nelly were reprimanded for pointing at their crotches, a move no hip hop artists have ever performed up until that point.

Kid Rock also got it in the neck from Senator Zell Miller, who called Rock’s stars and stripes poncho “a desecration of the American flag.” The fact an election was just around the corner will have had nothing to do with this whatsoever.


The combination of a huge audience and wildly expensive ad space means the Super Bowl’s TV spots need to be short, sharp and memorable. Most will probably have a personal favorite, or one that reminds them of a great game… but then there is the rogue’s gallery of banned ads. It looks like you can still be Too Hot For TV.

Adultery-encouraging dating website Ashley Madison has twice been shot down by censors, but their 2011 effort really shouldn’t have been. The confused looks on people’s faces would have broke America.

Not only do we get porn star Savanna Samson letting her hair down and bursting out of her clothes, we get a glimpse of some sapphiric action, somebody in a bunny costume and a capybara. All the ingredients for a great commercial.

NBC disagreed and refused to run the ad. Boooooooo!


Maybe another one we can put in the ‘overblown’ category, but also one more that generated enough of a storm to warrant its inclusion on this list.

M.I.A., never well-known for her shyness and unwillingness to confront, gave two big messages to the USA while doing her thing during Madonna’s half-time show.

First, the bird was well and truly flipped.

Then, she told us all that she didn’t give a… well, you can probably work out the rest.


Animal welfare group PETA decided to throw caution to the wind with a Super Bowl ad that was ultimately rejected.

Imploring viewers to go veggie, the video finds an array of lithe, scantily-clad women getting fruity with some veg. The carnivores at Standards & Practices didn’t see the funny side and blocked its airing.

Still, watching this advert has whipped up a real appetite for some melons…

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