Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears dated for three years in the early 2000s . File Picture: Chris Gardner/AP
Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears dated for three years in the early 2000s . File Picture: Chris Gardner/AP

After years of silence, Justin Timberlake apologises to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson

By The Washington Post Time of article published Feb 13, 2021

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By Emily Yahr

After years of criticism for his treatment of Britney Spears and Janet Jackson, pop star Justin Timberlake released a rare apology on Friday morning on his Instagram account saying, "I know I failed."

"The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It's designed this way. As a man in a privileged position I have to be vocal about this," he wrote to his nearly 60 million followers.

"Because of my ignorance, I didn't recognise it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again."

Timberlake's apology comes a week after the release of "Framing Britney Spears," a New York Times-produced documentary about her conservatorship battle that also dove into Spears's rise as one of the world's biggest pop stars - as well as the misogynistic culture that tried to tear her down.

Timberlake, who dated Spears for three years in the early 2000s, was featured in the film; he has long been slammed by critics for how he played up their breakup (constantly referencing her in interviews and using his "Cry Me a River" music video to imply she cheated on him) to boost his own career.

Meanwhile, Spears was dragged through the mud as a "cheater" and tormented by the tabloids.

As the backlash over Spears intensified this week, people also spoke up to remind everyone that Timberlake - who has also received criticism for his appropriation of Black music and culture - was technically the one who ripped Jackson's top during her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at their 2004 Super Bowl halftime show performance, yet he escaped unscathed while Jackson's career was damaged.

"I've seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond," Timberlake wrote.

"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 apologise to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed," he added.

"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."

The apology is a rare move for Timberlake, who has mostly dodged taking accountability for the role he had in both Spears's and Jackson's career troubles.

"I have not been perfect in navigating all of this throughout my career. I know this apology is a first step and doesn't absolve the past.

“I want to take accountability for my own missteps in all of this as well as be a part of a world that uplifts and supports," he concluded.

"I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better."

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