O.J. Simpson Dead at 76

O.J. Simpson (Photo Bang Media)

Former NFL star and murder suspect had been treated for cancer – O.J. Simpson, first celebrated as an All-American football hero and then, in some circles, for being acquitted of the 1994 murder of his white ex-wife and her friend, has died at the age of 76 in Las Vegas, according to a statement his family released Thursday on social media.

His family announced the news early Thursday on Simpson’s account on X (formerly Twitter).

Simpson was a Heisman Trophy-winning running back at USC in 1968, who blossomed into one of the NFL’s all-time greats as a star for the Buffalo Bills in the 1970s, including the league’s Most Valuable Player award winner in 1973 after rushing for 2,000 yards. He earned the nickname “The Juice” and went on to win four NFL rushing titles. He finished his 11-year Hall-of-Fame career in 1980, after two seasons with his hometown San Francisco 49ers.

He parlayed his movie-star good looks into endorsements, most notably with Hertz Rent-a-Car, into a commentator spot on Monday Night Football and even into the “Naked Gun” franchise, among other roles.

The turning point of his life

But his life took a drastic turn for the worse on June 12, 1994, when his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed to death at his house in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Given the turbulent nature of his seven-year marital relationship with Nicole, which featured numerous calls to 911 and evidence of domestic violence, Simpson immediately was branded a person of interest.

Five days later, the nation looked on aghast as on live TV he led police on a low-speed chase down an L.A. freeway in a white Ford Bronco, reportedly pointing a gun at his head and clutching pictures of his two kids, while his friend, another former NFL player named Al Cowlings, drove.

He surrendered to police that same night, and became the focal point of a riveting nine-month trial that brought famed lawyer Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian — father of women who would go on to become reality-TV stars — to prominence.

Race played a big role in the trial. Simpson’s defense team succeeded in portraying his prosecution as the ultimate end to Los Angeles police racist attempts to frame a Black man.

The case ultimately turned when Cochran famously had Simpson try on bloody gloves found at the crime scene. They were too small and Cochran told the jury, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” When, shortly thereafter, Simpson, a Black man, was improbably acquitted of the murders of two white people, many in America celebrated a turning of the legal tables.

But Simpson would never be free of the crime, or attempts to circumvent the jury’s verdict.

Defeated in the criminal trial, Goldman’s family got their revenge in a 1997 civil trial, where Simpson was found liable for the murders and was hit with a $33.5 million judgment. The Brown and Goldman families unswervingly made every attempt to collect, and Simpson largely was financially ruined, though he reportedly only paid $500,000 of the judgment. He even had to auction off his Heisman Trophy award.

But state law prevented the civil judgment from including Simpson’s $5 million NFL pension, which paid him $425,000 a year.

Simpson maintained low profile

Simpson tried to maintain a low profile after that, but trouble found him. He was arrested again 10 years later, in 2007, in Las Vegas. He claimed that he was trying to recover stolen mementos from his NFL and movie careers from two memorabilia dealers.

That episode resulted in him being sentenced on Dec. 5, 2008, to 33 years for kidnapping and armed robbery, and many saw it as payback for his “getting away with murder” in 1995. Simpson was paroled in October 2017 and released from parole in December 2021 for good behavior.

He tried to put his past behind him.

“We don’t need to go back and relive the worst day of our lives,” Simpson said in 2019. “The subject of the  moment is the subject I will never revisit again. My family and I have moved on to what we call the ‘no-negative zone.’ We focus on the positives.”

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O.J. Simpson dead at 76

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