POPSUGAR Celebrity

A History of Sex and the Super Bowl

Jan 31 2014 - 2:40pm
Source: Getty [1]

It's not just about the football — thanks to racy commercials, suggestive halftime shows, and lingerie-clad ladies, the Super Bowl has earned a sexy, scandalous reputation over the years. The first Super Bowl took place on Jan. 15, 1967, and since then, it's become one of the most popular TV events each year. In 2012, the championship game captured the attention of 111 million viewers, and the last four Super Bowls have been the he most-watched TV broadcasts in the US.

With that kind of popularity, any controversies related to the game come with major media scrutiny and a bright national spotlight. It's been 10 years since "Nipplegate," which tends to be the most shocking, buzzed-about incident in the game's history, but there have been several other sex-related controversies tied to the event. In anticipation of this year's big game, take a look at some of the most scandalous moments in Super Bowl history.

Frisky Farrah

Thanks to such high TV ratings, the Super Bowl marks the most expensive commercial airtime a company can buy. Companies do their best to grab viewers' attentions, and the idea that "sex sells" isn't a new one. In 1973, Farrah Fawcett's Noxzema commercial [2] featured the blond bombshell rubbing shaving cream on the face of New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath. In a not-so-subtle sexual innuendo, he says, "I'm so excited, I'm gonna get creamed!"

Super Bowl Soliciting

The night before 1999's Super Bowl XXXIII, Atlanta Falcons player Eugene Robinson was arrested on a charge of soliciting sex from a prostitute in Miami — while his wife was in bed at their hotel. After offering an undercover officer $40 for oral sex, he played alongside his team in the championship game, eventually losing to the Denver Broncos.

Suggestive '90s Supermodels

Sexy brunettes seemed to rule the small screen during Super Bowl ads throughout the '90s. First, there was Cindy Crawford's 1992 Pepsi commercial [3], which featured the stunning supermodel sipping from a can while young boys stared from afar.

In Ali Landry's 1998 Doritos commercial [4], she makes guys swoon with her laundromat acrobatics. The successful ad made headlines and "The Doritos Girl" kicked off her TV and film career.


It was the "wardrobe malfunction" seen around the world. During the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, Justin Timberlake [5] pulled at a part of Janet Jackson [6]'s costume and part of her breast was revealed, covered with nipple jewelry. The now-iconic event became known as Nipplegate, and Justin said he was "shocked and appalled" [7] by the incident.

Halftime Precautions

In the wake of Nipplegate, the NFL imposed a five-second delay on halftime performances. For the following six years, only classic male rockers like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and Tom Petty stepped on the Super Bowl stage. It wasn't until 2011 that another woman — Fergie [8] of the Black Eyed Peas — performed during the halftime show. Madonna [9]'s 2012 performance was the most watched in the history of the Super Bowl, and in 2013, Beyoncé took the stage.

Ladies' League

2004 launched the Lingerie Bowl, the championship game for a female football league, where players wore helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee pads, garters, bras, and underwear. It began as a pay-per-view halftime special, but the game was canceled in 2007, 2008, and 2009 for a variety of reasons.

When the league shifted to a Spring season, that meant no more Super Bowl timing, which lessened the Lingerie Bowl's popularity. On Jan. 10, 2013, the league rebranded itself as Legends Football League because its credibility suffered over its previous name and the skimpy uniforms.

Sexual Assault Suspension

In 2010, in the wake of a sexual assault allegation (his second), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers was suspended for the first six games — reduced to four — before leading his team to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers. The following year, he married wife Ashley Harlan and the pair is expecting their second child in the Spring.

Sex-Trafficking Scandals

One major controversy surrounding the Super Bowl is the longheld idea that it marks one of the biggest sex-trafficking events in the US. For years stories have come out about prostitution cases, and although the NFL has denied and brushed off scandals, law enforcement officials report a spike in trafficking [10] each year ahead of the big game. A 2011 report on the issue [11] concludes that there's more rumor than truth to the controversy, but with so much coverage on the topic, sex trafficking remains linked to the Super Bowl.

Contemporary Campaigns

Each year, the sexy Super Bowl ads [12] continue — and sometimes end up banned before the game even airs. During Megan Fox's 2010 Motorola commercial [13], the Hollywood bombshell snapped photos of herself in a bathtub. The following year, Kim Kardashian's Skechers ad [14] featured her in skimpy spandex, running her hands along her body and teasing a male trainer.

Meanwhile, PETA's 2011 "Go Veg" campaign [15] commercial was banned for being sexually explicit. As a parody of porn casting, the ad showed women eating vegetables in suggestive ways, and although it never aired, the commercial earned a lot of press and thousands of YouTube hits.

WAG "Curses"

Sports superstition is nothing new, but in recent years, blame has been placed on the wives and girlfriends of popular players. Toward the end of the 2007 football season, Jessica Simpson [16] attended a Dallas Cowboys game to watch then-boyfriend Tony Romo [17] play against the Eagles, and she was largely credited with "distracting" the quarterback. Likewise, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady [18] hasn't won a Super Bowl since being with his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen [19], which some say is no coincidence.

Beyoncé's Halftime Blackout

Beyoncé's 2013 halftime-show performance [20] definitely brought sexy to the Super Bowl stage. The singer reunited with her Destiny's Child bandmates, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams [21], and she rocked out with new and old hits. People even joked that her performance caused the infamous blackout that took place inside the New Orleans Superdome moments later.

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