Justin Timberlake has publicly apologized after receiving a wave of backlash for a tweet praising Jesse Williams' impassioned speech Sunday night at the BET Awards.
Mr. Williams received a standing ovation after he addressed systemic racism in the U.S. and the appropriation of black culture in the entertainment industry.
Mr. Timberlake, who is white, wrote simply that he was "inspired" by the speech, which prompted a flurry of angry responses.
Ernest Owens, a black journalist, responded to the pop singer, "So does this mean you're going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too."
"Oh, you sweet soul," Mr. Timberlake replied. "The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye."
That comment only fueled the backlash, with many social media users accusing Mr. Timberlake of missing the point of Mr. Williams' speech. Others also reiterated Mr. Owens' point about the singer's performance with Janet Jackson at the 2004 Super Bowl, where her breast was exposed onstage. Some believe Ms. Jackson's career suffered as a result of the incident, while Mr. Timberlake's appeared to emerge from the scandal unscathed, USA Today reported.
Two hours later, the pop singer returned to Twitter to apologize to his 55.6 million followers.
"I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn't meant to be a general response. I shouldn't have responded anyway," he wrote. " I forget this forum sometimes... I was truly inspired by @iJesseWilliams speech because I really do feel that we are all one... A human race."
He added, "I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US. --JT"
Mr. Williams accepted the BET humanitarian award Sunday night, demanding equal rights and calling for an end to police brutality against black people and white appropriation of black culture.
"A system built to impoverish, divide and destroy us cannot stand if we do," the "Grey's Anatomy" star told the crowd. "We know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day."
"We're done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while 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," Mr. Williams said.