Adam Levine's shirtless halftime show prompted 2 distinct types of FCC complaints

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
Adam Levine of Maroon 5 stripped down during the halftime show in Atlanta. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Adam Levine of Maroon 5 stripped down during the halftime show in Atlanta. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

If you will recall, Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine bared it all — or nearly all of it — at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show in February.

People were not pleased, both in the performance and the attire, and made that quite clear. When he wasn’t bouncing around the stage in a tank straight from that pillow you bought at Target, he was doing it with no shirt at all.

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SB Nation’s James Dator acquired the complaints to the FCC regarding the Super Bowl and found that 55 had to do with the halftime show. In all there were 94 pages of complaints, though many of those pages are white space.

While some were extremely against seeing the nipples, an almost equal number were against the double standard of Janet Jackson’s exposure in 2004 and Levine’s 15 years later.

Think of the children

Many wrote in taking issue with the nipples while also questioning the impact on children watching the game. One complainant called it “morally reprehensible,” another went with “smut” and another wrote in about a “half naked stripper.”

(All comments are given as-is with all grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.)

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“I am offended and troubled by the actions taken during the Super Bowl half time show. I am stunned that I was forced to see a topless man gyrating and gesticulating during the show. How can it be appropriate that a man expose himself that way during a family program. It is offensive and sexual and I do not believe CBS endorses this type of unannounced nudity.” ~ Barrington, Illinois

“Adam Levine exposes his bare chest during the halftime show. I thought this was banned years ago. I am offended.” ~ Forrest City, Arkansas

This one from Saugus, Massachusetts, might be a joke, to be honest. After mentioning Levine’s nipples were “completely uncovered” the person wrote it was offensive as “young children could have seen it and how can we explain to them that people have nipples?!”

One person somehow fit all these key words into a complaint in an odd way.

“This year’s super bowl halftime show featured a shirtless, heavily tattooed man (Adam Levine of Maroon 5) that my entire family and friends found very indecent and unnecessary to watch. In the middle of the early evening, there should not be on television someone bearing that number of tattoos and be construed as acceptable or without controversy. A nipple of a woman is far more acceptable, acceptable and natural than innumerable tattoos covering most of someone’s torso and upper extremities, regardless of how toned or good looking the person is. I consider myself fairly socially liberal and even I thought this was too much, especially for children.” ~ Thousand Oaks, California

And from Indianapolis, the greatest example of the slippery slope fallacy under the title “sexual stimulation; nipple exposure”:

“I witnessed the exposure of nipples during the halftime show of the super bowl. My children were watching. If I wanted them exposed to the trash I would let them go hog wild on pornhub. Adam Levine and the NFL need to be punished for such indecency.”

Adam Levine bared it all during the halftime show. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Adam Levine bared it all during the halftime show. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


Sorry, Miss Jackson, this is for real

A lot of complaints compared the situation to Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show with Justin Timberlake in 2004. Timberlake, who returned to the halftime stage last year, forcibly ripped off Jackson’s corset top and exposed her breast. It was reportedly part of the show that he rip it off during the line “gonna have you naked by the end of this song” but it was supposed to expose a bra underneath.

There were 540,000 complaints to the FCC that time around and Jackson took most of the backlash that included the shelving of her new album and rescinded offers for awards shows. CBS, which aired that year as well, was fined $550,000 by the FCC. A former FCC chairman said in 2014 the entire ordeal was blown out of proportion.

It came back into the limelight this year as many viewers regarded Nipplegate II as a double standard. Especially given that Levine voluntarily stripped down from a jacket to his bare chest.

One person from Columbus, Ohio, put the subject as “gender equality in Super Bowl halftime shows” with this to say:

“In 2004, CBS was fined $550,000 for airing what has become known as the “Nipple Slip.” In 2019, CBS aired Adam Levine removing his shirt exposing both nipples. This must be dealt with in a similar manner, or the double standard must be made public.”

Many people pointed out the double standard during the performance and in the days following.

“Seeing Adam Levine’s nipples was repulsive. Also the fact that there hasn’t been an immediate backlash like the Janet Jackson incident is disturbing and sexist.” ~ Dallas

“! Shame on you! Shame on your whole sexists country! A breast is a breast. Janet Jackson got a fine for unintentionally showing one of her breast. But maroon 5 can stand half naked!!! This is outrageous!!” ~ Gothenborg, Florida

This person has an interesting point to be made.

“It is extremely distasteful for Adam Levine of Maroon 5 to display vestigial male nipples on live television where any child can see these evolutionary leftovers. If the FCC punished Janet Jackson for showing her functioning nipples in 2004, they must immediately fine Adam Levine for displaying his vestigial nipples. This fine should also be doubled as Levine displayed double the nipple.” ~ Macedon, New York

And then there were 2

In case you wanted further insight into your neighbors, there were some non-nipple related complaints. Most people wrote in about the movie trailer for “Us” shown during pre-game, citing it scared their children.

Then there were these two.

A Warren, Texas, resident called it a “Superb bowl halftime” and wrote that part of it was racist against white people as “calling white people crackers is reverse discrimination.” A viewer from Sellersburg, Indiana, also alleged the game is racist and took issue with the post-game celebration, writing “I didn’t like how [Tom Brady] hugged the Patriots owner but I think they’re in love so it’s OK.”

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