Editor's Note

Editor’s Note: Oh, by the way, OJ died

The former Buffalo Bills running back, actor and convicted felon’s death was a passing afterthought.

O.J. Simpson posing in his Buffalo Bills uniform in the early 1970s

O.J. Simpson posing in his Buffalo Bills uniform in the early 1970s Focus On Sport / Contributor – via Getty

O.J. Simpson’s death at 76 from cancer on Wednesday recalled memories of his connections to New York, which started with nine seasons playing for the Buffalo Bills. “The Juice” became known as one of the greatest running backs of all time. I was a kid then and remember Simpson pivoting over to acting in film and commercials after his NFL career ended. He was even in ads for the Hertz car rental company at New York’s airports. 

Years later, as a young reporter in New Jersey at the Asbury Park Press, I covered reactions to Simpson’s murder trial in a Black neighborhood in Lakewood Township. Everyone there on Oct. 3, 1995, like the rest of the nation, was glued to their TVs watching as Simpson was acquitted of murdering his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. There were cheers inside a beauty parlor where clients and staff watched as the verdict was announced, a reflection of how racially polarizing the trial was for the entire country.

Simpson was convicted in the civil trial later brought against him by Goldman’s family. He also went to jail for nine years on a felony conviction for his role in robbing sports memorabilia he claimed was his. He died after living a comfortable life in a gated Las Vegas community where he still enjoyed his fans, but far from where his fame began. I spoke to young people about his passing, including my 29-year-old son and staff at City & State, and it was clear Simpson’s death was lost on the generations that followed those grisly murders. His celebrity moment had finally ended, and with good reason.