O.J. Simpson: Football Star, Actor, and Acquitted Murder Suspect, Dies at 76

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O.J. Simpson: Football Star, Actor, and Acquitted Murder Suspect, Dies at 76

Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson died from cancer today at the age of 76, according to his family. It is difficult to properly summarize a man who lived one of the most interesting lives in American history, especially given the fact that he was acquitted for the thing he is most famous for allegedly doing. Most media outlets are either listing the same three items from this title in their ledes, or they are going the Heisman Trophy route and simply acknowledging that their 1968 winner has passed and please stop asking us to say anything more.

O.J. Simpson’s trial in the 1990s over his alleged and acquitted murder of his ex-girlfriend Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman captivated America’s attention. His dramatic highway chase famously interrupted the NBA Finals.

Because of our inherently discriminatory justice system, this trial became a referendum on America. Crudely speaking, it was portrayed as white America being aghast at justice not being served, while black America celebrated either one of their own finally beating this corrupt system, or simply not believing what this corrupt system alleged when it accused yet another black man of murder, and being elated at justice being served for once.

“Juice” was so much more than just the subject in a murder trial though. He was one of the most dominant football players of his generation. He won the Heisman Trophy as the NCAA’s best player, then became the first NFL running back to ever to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. This dominance on the field earned him a litany of endorsements, as he became one of football’s first true cultural icons. His IMDB page is filled with TV shows and movies that captured mainstream America’s attention.

Which is why his murder trial was such a flashpoint. A black man showering himself in white America’s money made him a divisive figure among many for many reasons, and it became easy to make the trial about the United States of America more than O.J. because O.J. was America.

He proved to everyone on the field he was violent. He was charismatic. He was greedy. This man etched himself into the fabric of our culture, then his trial led us to have an argument about what America is and claims to be that still reverberates to this day.


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