O.J. Simpson, 70, the former NFL star and Hall of Fame running back — and the man who became famous for “running through airports” — will be released from a Nevada prison this weekend after serving nine years of a nine-to-33-year sentence for his role in an armed robbery and kidnapping caper. Strange enough, his recent appearance before the parole board elicited wall-to-wall coverage from cable news shows during which he stated that he’s been a model prisoner and apologized for his actions.
But the Juice’s most memorable TV appearance occurred more than 20 years ago when he was acquitted of murder in the slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Those old enough to remember that day and the many months leading up to the trial, will recall how the entire nation became mesmerized by the tragic tale — one that included themes like domestic violence, the criminal justice system, race in America, the trustworthiness (or lack thereof) of police and the benefits that often come with being a celebrity. I guess we’ve never been able to get enough of O.J.
Simpson, says when he and another associate entered a Las Vegas casino in 2007 in order to reclaim several pieces from his sports memorabilia collection that he claimed had been taken from him, he did not know his friend was armed. He says he never intended to hurt anyone. He just wanted his things. Now, as he prepares to walk out of prison and move to Florida where it’s said he will reside with his oldest daughter, it’s unclear what the future will hold for him.
Perhaps he’ll make a few dollars telling colorful stories about his career, the murder trial and other tongue-in-cheek anecdotes. Maybe, with the generous pension that he’ll receive from the NFL, he will simply fade quietly into the sunset. Some folks are even betting on his future plans as if they were predicting the winner in a Vegas boxing match.
As for me, O.J.’s release and what he does with the rest of his life is of little or no consequence. After all, O.J. was never one to do much with or for the Black community. He never made any efforts to become a Black role model for little Black boys like me during his NFL heyday. And according to one of my colleagues, also a journalist, the only reason that he even began to frequent restaurants and waterholes popular with Blacks in L.A. in the months prior and during his trial, was to gain the support and sympathy of the black community — people on whom he had, for the most part, turned his back years before.
Johnnie Cochran, Simpson’s high-powered and highly-capable defense attorney, who made the phrase “if it [the glove] doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” one of the most memorable phrases of the 90s, allegedly came up with the strategy to take O.J. to some of the more frequented haunts of “Black L.A.” And while it proved effective, it was little more than like just a show. O.J. could have really made a difference in the lives of thousands of Black boys and girls, once upon a time. He chose not to. That was his right.
So, when he’s released this weekend, I won’t waste my time thinking about him — not on that day or in the future. I just don’t care — not even if I happen to catch a glimpse of him running through an airport.