Pro Football Hall of Fame RB O.J. Simpson dies at 76; once popular NFL star image tarnished by bouts with law later in life

By Lucy Santiago

O. J. Simpson in 1990. By Gerald Johnson – http, Public Domain, https


Orenthal James Simpson (July 9, 1947 – April 10, 2024) was an American football player and actor. He played in the National Football League (NFL) for 11 seasons, primarily with the Buffalo Bills, and is regarded as one of the greatest running backs of all time. His professional success was overshadowed by his trial and controversial acquittal for the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994.

Simpson played college football for the USC Trojans, where he won the Heisman Trophy as a senior, and was selected first overall by the Bills in the 1969 NFL/AFL draft. During his nine seasons with the Bills, he received five consecutive Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selections from 1972 to 1976. He also led the league in rushing yards four times, in rushing touchdowns twice, and in points scored in 1975. He became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, earning him NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP), and is the only NFL player to do so in a 14-game regular season. He holds the record for the single-season yards-per-game average at 143.1.

After retiring with the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, he acted in film and television, became a sports broadcaster, and was a spokesman for a wide variety of products and companies, notably Hertz. He was later inducted into multiple football halls of fame.

Brown and Goldman were murdered in Los Angeles on the night of June 12, 1994. Simpson was charged with the murders, and arrested after an incident in which he tried to flee the police in his friend’s car. The internationally-publicized murder trial lasted from January to October 1995, and created racial divisions in the U.S. He was acquitted on October 3. Three years later, he was found liable for the murders in a civil suit from the victims’ families, but paid little of the $33.5 million judgment.

In 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. In 2008, he was convicted, and sentenced to 33 years’ imprisonment with a minimum of nine years without parole. He served his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada, until being paroled and released in 2017. He was released from parole in 2021, and lived in freedom until his death at age 76 from prostate cancer in 2024.