Justin Timberlake forgets golden rule of celebrity: Be careful what you tweet

In this Feb. 28, 2016 file photo, Justin Timberlake arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. Sunday night, Timberlake took to Twitter to share his enthusiasm for the BET Awards. It did not go well.
(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

On Sunday nights while “Game of Thrones” is airing, there are few places online more boisterous than Twitter. But with the HBO dragon drama airing its Season 6 finale, what else did the Internet find to fill the social media void?

Luckily for everyone (except maybe Justin Timberlake) the answer presented itself in short order.

The 2016 BET Awards aired Sunday night and spurred plenty of conversation in its own right, including fiery performances by Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, Maxwell and Janelle Monae, but the highlight of the evening belonged to Jesse Williams’ Humanitarian Award acceptance speech.

The “Grey’s Anatomy” actor and executive producer of BET’s “Stay Woke” documentary, delivered a powerful speech that touched on the sacrifices of black women to their community, police violence, the commodification and appropriation and a need for action that drove his audience to their feet and audiences at home to their keyboards. 

Unfortunately, that audience included Justin Timberlake, who found himself so moved by Williams’ words that he took to his Twitter to express his appreciation.

It may be worth noting that the fallout to come for Timberlake should have been obvious at this point. He doesn’t even know that in order for all your followers to see a tweet to someone, you need to put a period before their name! At this point he’s just tweeting at Jesse Williams.

Regardless, people found Timberlake’s tweet and immediately the pop star found himself inundated by people pointing out that while his appreciation is all well and good, he was not exactly the target audience for the speech.

Or maybe he was, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Janet in question? Jackson.

During the “wardrobe malfunction” seen around the world at the halftime show of the 2004 Super Bowl, Timberlake accidentally(?) exposed Jackson’s breast to the world, igniting a firestorm of criticism for the singer.

Jackson, that is. Timberlake, on the other hand, was pretty untouchable. At the Grammy Awards just a week later, Timberlake performed twice and won twice. Jackson was banned from the event.

This tweet in particular, for whatever reason, seemed to strike a nerve in Timberlake, who responded in condescending fashion.

Which, in turn, spurred responses like this:

Madison is right. In Williams’ speech he states, “The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job.”

Williams also said, “If you have critique for the resistance, of our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions for those who do. Sit down.”

At some point, it feels safe to assume that Timberlake suddenly remembered all these points. And if nothing else, then perhaps he recalled Williams saying of cultural appropriation, “extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”

And then perhaps Timberlake remembered this portion of his career.

Regardless of what spurred it, Timberlake shifted to apology mode, taking care to mention that he felt misunderstood and that we’re all humans after all and can’t we all just get along?

Let this be a reminder to celebrities everywhere, regardless of the circumstances: be careful what you tweet.


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