OJ Simpson, American football icon acquitted of wife's murder, dies at 76


American football icon OJ Simpson, whose glorious career in the sport was overshadowed by charges against him filed in 1994 for murdering his wife and her friend, has passed away at the age of 76.

As per ESPN, the football icon passed away on Wednesday. His family made the announcement on social media through his official X (formerly Twitter) account.

“On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace,” the family posted on Simpson’s X account.

Simpson was ultimately acquitted of stabbing his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles in what was one of the most sensational trials of that time. His life changed following this trial as he went from a sporting icon to a controversial celebrity-in-exile.

On the football field, though, he made a career as one of the best running backs of all time. He represented Buffalo Bills (1969-1977) and San Francisco 49ers (1978-1979) in his playing days.

He won the Heisman Trophy for the University of Southern California (USC) in 1968, an honour given to the best college football player. After shining for his university, he was highly sought after in the National Football League (NFL) scene, with the Buffalo Bills making him their number-one pick in the draft.

OJ made it to five First Team All-Pro Squads and six Pro Bowls. He was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the league in 1973, becoming the first player to rush 2,000 yards in a season. Doing so in 14 games, he averaged at 141.3 yards per game, which still stands as an all-time NFL record.

Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. After his retirement from the sport, he stayed relevant in the limelight through commentary and acting.

In 1994, Simpson’s life took a turn for worse when the bodies of his wife and friend were found outside her condo in LA’s Brentwood area. Simpson was a person of interest in the murders and charges were filed against him. But instead of turning himself in to the authorities, five days later, he led police on a car chase throughout Los Angeles, driven by former NFL player Al Cowlings. This chase turned out to be a media spectacle, with 95 million people watching it on their TV. The coverage of the 1994 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals was interrupted by this incident.

Simpson surrendered to the cops at his home in Brentwood that night. His trial started in January 1995, labelled as the ‘Trial of the Century’. It featured lead prosecutor Marcia Clark taking on Simpson’s legal team led by Johnnie Cochran, who pleaded to the jury during the closing arguments, saying “If it does not fit, you must acquit”, referring to a glove matching one found at the murder scene. On October 3, Simpson was acquitted and not found guilty of murders.

In 1997, the Goldman family filed a civil lawsuit against Simpson. The player was found liable for 33.5 million US Dollars. In order to settle the court costs, Simpson auctioned his own copy of the 1968 Heisman for USD 230,000, plus commission.

Simpson moved from Florida to California and stayed out of the public limelight. But 13 years later, he was in the limelight again, on trial for two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint along with another person named Clarence Stewart. Simpson told police that he was trying to reclaim the memorabilia stolen from him, but was convicted of 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

His attempts to appeal and to request for new trial was denied and he served his sentence at Lovelock Correctional Centre. He was released on parole on October 2017 and deemed a “free man” after being discharged from parole in 2021.

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Published: 11 Apr 2024, 10:10 PM IST

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