12 Super Bowl Controversies We’re Still Talking About Years Later

This year, Justin Timberlake made a triumphant return to America’s biggest stage with a Super Bowl performance that was (almost) scandal-free.

But of course, we remember that the last time the singer appeared at the Super Bowl things didn’t go so smoothly. Let’s revisit the classic wardrobe malfunction, and 11 other times controversy struck the big game.


Appearing alongside Madonna at Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, rapper M.I.A. stunned America when she flipped the camera the bird. NFL and NBC both apologized for the mishap, which drew more than 200 complaints.

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The football league later tried to sue M.I.A. over the controversy, but settled with the rapper out of court.

CBS Sports

Super Bowl I, take two. Yes, the very first Super Bowl featured a blooper that makes us shake our heads to this day. NBC was still on commercial when Green Bay kicked off the game’s second half. The network made the players start the third quarter over again for the TV audience.

Sports Illustrated

Another unbelievable but true story from Super Bowl I: Green Bay’s backup receiver, Max McGee, spent the night before the game at the bar. “I hope you don’t get hurt. I’m not in very good shape,” he told starting receiver Boyd Dowler before the game.

Of course, Dowler was injured in the second play, and a severely hungover McGee had to play in his place. Thankfully this Super Bowl “fail” had a happy ending: he had seven receptions and scored two touchdowns to help Green bay win the game.

Rogers Photo Archive

Buffalo Bills player Thurman Thomas had a unique game day ritual: he left his helmet sitting on the 34-yard line before each game, a reference to his player number, 34.

Unfortunately, nobody told the running back where they moved his helmet during Harry Connick Jr.’s national anthem performance. Thomas missed the first two plays of the 1993 Super Bowl before he found the headgear.


Super Bowl viewers had a field day on social media during Katy Perry’s halftime show in 2016, when they noticed one of her backup dancers was moving to the beat of his own drum.

The infamous “left shark” and his funky dance moves made headlines the next day. But in a new interview, the man inside the costume, Bryan Gaw, says everything went according to plan.

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“I’m in a 7-foot shark costume. There’s no cool in that. So what’s the other option? Well, I’m gonna play a different character,” Gaw said about his 15 minutes of fame.

NFL Films

Need proof that the Super Bowl halftime show has evolved over the decades? Just remember when we had to settle for Elvis Presto, the painfully bad stage magician who tried to wow audiences with “the world’s largest card trick.”

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To pull off the stunt, millions of pairs of 3-D glasses were handed out across America, but even they couldn’t bring any magic to this terrible show.

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