OJ Simpson is being paroled. And people are cheering this and saying it’s about time. Imagine that. Oh yeah, I hate OJ Simpson.
For the record in my personal opinion I believe Simpson got away with murder. It’s a shame that I hate him, but I felt betrayed by him, our justice system and many members of the public who successfully turned this into a race issue.
As a kid I loved OJ Simpson. The former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer was a joy to watch playing football. Although my favorite team was the Miami Dolphins I took exception watching him play. At this time in the early ‘70s there was no one like him in the NFL. I was too young to see Jim Brown or Gayle Sayers (although I cried watching “Brian’s Song” as a kid and still do), so OJ was the first truly electric ball runner I got to see on Sundays growing up. OJ was cool. Nicknamed “The Juice” his offensive line was nicknamed the “Electric Company”.
Simpson played on a horrible team that in 1970 only won one game. Three seasons later he became the first running back to crack the 2,000-yard mark finishing with 2,003. Even more impressive is he did this when the season only lasted 14 games. That season he led the Bills to their first winning season since 1966.
Yeah, I realize it was never a perfect world and there is prejudice everywhere but OJ in my little world was one of my favorites outside of my Dolphin heroes. And the fact he was black made it that much better. I never thought much about color as a kid and still don’t but I was never around that many black kids growing up so when I got to see one on TV in my white world I liked it. From a sports and entertainment standpoint a lot of my favorite athletes and stars were black. Besides OJ there was Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Frazier, Hank Aaron and Lou Brock. The NFL team I hated the most and still do was the Steelers. I remember praying for Terry Bradshaw to get injured. And when he did Joe Gilliam took over. Gilliam was the third black quarterback of the Super Bowl era to start in the NFL. In fact, Gilliam won the starting job away from Bradshaw to begin the 1974 season but lost it four weeks into the season. I cheered like crazy for Gilliam – first, because I hated Bradshaw, and second because he was black and I thought a black quarterback was cool. Blacks in the media were to me always presented as being cool and funny – everyone from Jimmy Walker, Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson and so on. I was too young to comprehend racism, nor had my parents taken part in or spoke against anyone of any race or religion. I was a clean slate from that point.
OJ was also the first black athlete to break the color barrier as a mainstream spokesman for everything from Dingo boots, Hertz Rent-a-Car, Royal Crown Cola, Schick, Foster Grant, Treesweet orange juice and Wilson Sporting Goods. Add to that appearing in the blockbuster film “The Towering Inferno” he was able to break racial barriers and stereotypes – all by assumedly by being himself. He came across as a fun and affable commentator on Monday Night Football and later NBC adding to his charisma. And then of course there were his roles in the “Naked Gun” film series as Nordberg who often suffered at the hands of Leslie Nielson’s character. I loved OJ, you loved OJ, we all loved OJ.
Of course when Simpson was playing in the NFL and after his playing career in the ‘80s media was a lot different than what it is now or even the mid ‘90s when public opinion changed about him. There was little known or published about most athletes and celebrities. Gossip was left to the National Enquirer and Star. Most people like me paid no attention to them and considered them akin to yellow journalism when in hindsight we might of should of paid closer attention. Of course I didn’t care what these guys did off the gridiron or off screen. As long as they entertained me I didn’t care. First with cable, the worldwide web and now social media the world is ruled by of all things sources like TMZ. Everyone is under a microscope – whether they like it or not.
The Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman murder may have indeed created reality television – for better or as I think – worse. Just like our parents or grandparents remember where they what they were doing when Kennedy was shot or when the Space Shuttle exploded, many of us remember what we were doing when the news began broadcasting in real time the slow chase of the now famous Ford Bronco with OJ in tow and best friend Al Cowlings at the wheel.
We unfortunately live in a world that loves sensationalism as much if not more than facts. Theoretically unsolved murder (although we all know who did it) murder of Simpson’s ex-wife and her date was bastardized by new organizations successfully attempting to sensationalize the grizzly crime and turn it from a crime into a news and media sensation. Lost in all the hoopla was the fact two people were brutally murdered and instead it brought attention to everything but the crime. We now all know the details of each law enforcement official involved with the murder, who they dated, what they wore and who they voted for instead who committed the crime and if Simpson was indeed innocent why did he embark a slow pursuit. Likewise why didn’t the police force the vehicle to stop? If it were you or I they would have run us off the road, thrown spikes in the road or worse. This was a ridiculous publicity stunt. And why? Let me ask you this… if Simpson was truly innocent of the crime why has it never been solved? Add to that the fact I haven’t heard of anything being done to solve the crime since the trial ended.
By the time the circus of a murder trial ended with Simpson bewilderingly found innocent by a jury of his peers the pubic knew more about the sex life and back story of Simpson, his wife, the prosecutors the judges, the house guest, yet little about the actual murder. Actual evidence of the case was tainted by public opinion because apparently one of the detectives of the case, Mark Fuhrman had used a racial slur ten years prior and thus tainted a pretty much black and white case (no pun intended) because of emotion and political correctness.
The irony of the case is during Simpson’s career other black athletes of the time held him in contempt because instead of standing up for black rights, he embraced the celebrity that came with being a successful and popular athlete and media star. Many including Jim Brown and Muhammed Ali saw him as betraying his race and the struggle black America was dealing with. Many thought he got what he deserved when he was originally arrested. Despite this claim by black activists against him, Simpson used the race card to change the tenor of the trial and divert everyone’s attention from whether he killed his ex-wife and her friend to attempting to make him appear a victim of racial profiling and discrimination. Of course as everyone knows after the circus that was his trial and I won’t go into deals as you can read and watch that on your own Simpson was found not guilty by a jury of his peers.
The verdict split the country down color lines, as you would expect. But the not guilty verdict may have actually been a good thing in many ways. Los Angeles was still recovering from the 1992 riots after the police officers involved with the now famous Rodney King beating were found innocent on all charges as six days of riots took place as 55 people were killed and over 2,000 injured in the aftermath. You can draw your own conclusion from this and the not guilty ruling in the OJ case. Please note how I worded that – not guilty instead of innocent.
In the aftermath of the circus trial of the century we as a country saw race relations as they really were. Everybody basically keeping their mouth shut on both sides unless it furthered an agenda and in most instances even then most of the hoping and hollering was coming from opposite sides of the spectrum. Depending on your opinion the outcome of the Simpson murder trial had two effects on race relations. It either magnified stereotypical or still practiced institutional racism or it sabotaged the healing that had taken place since the end of the Civil War in 1865.
And while Americans went back to their everyday lives in the aftermath a bad taste was still left in a lot of people’s mouths, most notably Ron Goldman’s family who sued Simpson in civil court over the murder of their son and won a $33.4 million settlement against Simpson – one that is still outstanding. This just went to show the world the hypocrisy of our legal system. OJ was found not guilty in criminal court but guilty in civil. Go figure.
The spectacle of the case brought tabloid journalism into the mainstream. What before was considered fringe entertainment soon became an actual news source for the general public often taken as gospel when in the past it was often dismissed. And that of course brought made it profitable because everyone loves to gossip, hear gossip and in a way hope to fin others worse than themselves so they in turn feel better about themselves. Add to that the Internet – then in its infancy and how social media now true journalism has a black eye and indeed may be down for the count, as no one knows for sure who or what to believe.
And while Simpson literally and figuratively got away with murder in 1995 karma paid him a visit 12 years later when he was arrested, charged and imprisoned for armed robbery of his own property and kidnapping. Found guilty he was given a 33-year sentence and no chance of parole for nine years. Many saw the sentence for this as a sort of “make good” or “revenge” for being found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife and her companion. Perhaps so, but that is karma I guess. Each and everyone out there is free to come to whatever conclusion of his murder trial and the outcome
Lo and behold now nine years later and Simpson, according to reports was a model prisoner will be released on October 1. At 70 years old there is no telling what will happen to him now that he has regained his freedom. If he is smart he will lay low. But in an era of social media and a man with a relatively large ego that has been well documented during his professional and personal life, there’s no telling. Who knows? Maybe he will finally be able to find the person who killed Nicole like he said he planned to do when he was acquitted back in 1995.
– Wm. Alexander
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