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This case study examines the context of and reaction to the uncovering of singer Janet Jackson’s breast during the broadcast of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Using a select thick reading of the event and its coverage, the analysis focuses on: a) the construction of the event by its organizational stakeholders, b) the reconstruction of understandings about how the fiasco came to be and what really happened and should have happened, and c) the deconstruction of the event by critics and those in the political environment who had reason to consider the incident and the response to it in a broader social context. Strategies for change and the prospects for “ethical health” in the sport marketplace are considered, with special attention given to promotional communication and crisis management.
The author is Von der Ahe Professor of Communication and Ethics, College of Communication and Fine Arts and the School of Film and Television, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA 90045.