OJ Simpson
Los Angeles, California - circa 1991: O.J. Simpson arriving at a restaurant

O.J. Simpson, the NFL star turned actor whose careers in sports and entertainment were overshadowed by criminal and civil trials accusing him of murdering his ex, Nicole Brown, and her friend Ron Goldman, has died of cancer at the age of 76, according to a statement on X attributed to his family.

“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 Simpson Family,” the statement reads.

Orenthal James Simpson, better known as OJ Simpson, was known as one of the greatest running backs in football history for his 11 seasons in the NFL, primarily with the Buffalo Bills. In retirement, he pursued an entertainment career, starring in Hertz commercials in which he was seen running through the airport, in the TV show television miniseries Roots (1977), and in the movies The Klansman (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), and Capricorn One (1978).

He was even considered for the lead in The Terminator, the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a cinematic powerhouse, before earning his greatest screen acclaim for the Naked Gun films, starting in 1988.

The OJ Simpson Trials

But that all came crashing down on the night of June 12, 1994, when his ex Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, were found stabbed to death outside her condo in Brentwood, about 10 minutes from Simpson’s home. He would ultimately be found not guilty in the murders have a criminal trial that monopolized the nation’s attention.

He would not be so fortunate at his next trial, a civil case with a lower burden of proof: Simpson was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages: $8.5 million in compensatory damages to the Goldman family, and $12.5 million in punitive damages to the Goldman and Brown families.

He never did.

As he avoided paying the debt, he found himself in legal trouble yet again: Simpson served almost nine years in prison for robbery, kidnapping and other counts for trying to steal sports memorabilia in Las Vegas, and was released in 2017. He argued that he was merely trying to recover memorabilia that was rightfully his.

Simpson’s cases — especially the criminal one — remained a public fascination long after his televised trial captivated Americans from its beginning on Sep 26, 1994 to its shocking verdict on Oct 3, 1995.

In 2016, it was the inspiration for FX’s acclaimed The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, whose all-star cast included starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ Simpson.

That same year, the Oscar-winning documentary O.J.: Made in America looked at the racial climate in American and specifically Los Angeles in the years before the trial, and examined the volatile mix of injustice, resentment and neglect that give context to the verdict.

Simpson was also the source of a dispute between Saturday Night Live and NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, who tried to get mid-90s Weekend Update anchor Norm MacDonald to stop making jokes about Simpson, an old friend. Both MacDonald and SNL writer Jim Downey were fired from the show in 1998, which both attributed to their refusal to stop mocking Simpson.

In his final years, Simpson was active on social media, weighing in on subjects like golf, football, and rumors about his health.

Main image: O.J. Simpson arriving at a restaurant in Los Angeles circa 1991, courtesy of Shutterstock.

Editor’s Note: Corrects typo.