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Apr 11, 2024 1:41 pm

O.J. Simpson: From ‘beloved’ to ‘no great loss’

O.J. Simpson

To some, O.J. Simpson was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.

Those born after his Pro Football Hall of Fame career remember Simpson as a beloved actor and broadcaster.

And to those even younger, he was an accused double murderer — acquitted in that case but later convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery in Las Vegas.

On Thursday, Simpson — who died of cancer on Wednesday at age 76 of prostate cancer — was recalled by those he touched in both triumph and tragedy.

“I knew him as an athlete, but I also knew him as a pitchman, and that crossover appeal into every living room, so even if you didn’t love football, you knew O.J. because of his ability to transcend sports and of course become the businessman and the pitchman that he was,” sports analyst Christine Brennan told CNN.

Legendary broadcaster Bob Costas, who worked with Simpson on NBC’s football telecasts, also recalled Simpson as an athlete who branched out beyond football — even before his retirement from the NFL — becoming known for his commercials for Hertz rental car and roles in television shows and movies including “The Towering Inferno,” the TV miniseries “Roots” and “The Naked Gun” film trilogy.

“He was not just admired, but beloved,” Costas told CNN. “He was, if not the first, he was the first to do it in a big way, an African American who broke through.”

But all that changed for Simpson following the June 12, 1994, murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and friend Ronald L. Goldman at her condominium in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles.

Simpson was acquitted in October 1995 after a trial that lasted nearly 10 months and stoked racial divisions. Both victims were white, and members of a primarily Black jury bought the defense argument that racist members of the Los Angeles Police Department framed him. Goldman’s family went on to sue Simpson for wrongful death and won a $33.5 million civil verdict.

Fred Goldman, the father of the victim, reacted Thursday.

“The only thing I have to say is it’s just further reminder of Ron being gone all these years,” Fred Goldman told NBC News of his son, who was 25 at the time of his death. “It’s no great loss to the world. It’s a further reminder of Ron’s being gone.”

Caitlyn Jenner, once part of Simpson’s social circle, echoed Goldman, posting “Good Riddance #OJSimpson” to social media.

Simpson was the first running back in NFL history to run for more than 2,000 yards in a season and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1985.

While there had been calls after the killings to pull Simpson’s bust from the shrine, it never did. Hall of Fame president Jim Porter issued a statement on Thursday.

“O.J. Simpson was the first player to reach a rushing mark many thought could not be attained in a 14-game season when he topped 2,000 yards,” Porter said. “His on-field contributions will be preserved in the Hall’s archives in Canton, Ohio.”

Simpson paid little of the civil judgment to the Goldman family, and the debt is believed to have ballooned to about $100 million with interest.

The family’s attorney said he will continue to pursue the money from the Simpson estate. David Cook told TMZ that Simpson “died without penance” and will attempt to find out where Simpson’s possessions and funds are.

–Field Level Media

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