NFL

OJ Simpson: Cherished star whose fall from grace was seen live by millions on TV

By Sports Desk April 11, 2024

From cherished American superstar to villain whose murder trial captivated a global audience, OJ Simpson’s fall from grace was startling.

Simpson, nicknamed ‘The Juice’, has died at the age of 76 after losing his battle with prostate cancer, leaving behind four children.

Before the low-speed car chase by police and ‘Trial of the Century’ that began the unravelling of his reputation, Simpson was a darling of American sport who had also carved out a successful acting career.

He was raised in a low income neighbourhood in San Francisco and joined a local gang but his athleticism offered a route out and he found his purpose in gridiron.

A prolific running back, he starred for USC and in 1968 won the Heisman Trophy awarded to the outstanding player in college football. Inevitably, he was first overall draught pick the following year.

Progress in his first couple of seasons at the Buffalo Bills was slow but his impact grew and he went on to become one of the most successful operators in his position, winning the NFL’s most valuable player in 1973 and being inducted into the hall of fame in 1985.

He became the game’s highest paid player and lucrative commercial deals also followed as companies looked to leverage his charisma and popularity, while his acting career included parts in blockbusters ‘Towering Inferno’ and ‘The Naked Gun’.

For all his film presence he was little known outside the United States but that changed for all the wrong reasons when he was arrested in 1994 for the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Brown and Goldman had been found stabbed to death in LA and once police had filed charges, Simpson refused to turn himself in and was pursued in an extraordinary car chase that was at low speed because he had a gun pointed to his head.

The event was televised live to millions and projected his notoriety worldwide, with the broadcasting of his subsequent murder trial only intensifying interest in this fallen star.

He was acquitted the following year but a civil lawsuit found him liable for the deaths, resulting in an order to pay £26.7million pounds to the victims of the families. Only a fraction of that amount was actually paid.

Arrests followed for a variety of offences in the early 2000s and his lowest point eventually came in 2007 when he was charged with armed robbery and kidnapping.

He served nine of a 33-year jail sentence and upon his release he continued to live in Las Vegas, looking increasingly frail when in public but active on social media. Simpson always maintained his innocence of the murders.

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