The Athletic is running a series called “the NFL 100,” ranking the top players in football history. This might have made more sense a year ago, when the NFL celebrated its 100th anniversary … and also unveiled an all-time team … but, whatever, everybody likes lists.
At No. 41 on The Athletic’s list is O.J. Simpson, which makes sense as the Buffalo Bills legend was the first man to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, back in 1973, when the season was only 14 games. Only seven other rushers have ever hit 2K. Titans’ Derrick Henry did it last season. Simpson’s achievements on the field — he’s still 21st in career rushing yards — are indisputable.
Any time you’re putting together a big project like this, it’s good to reach out and see if you can get the greats of the game to talk about their careers, and, incredibly, Tim Graham got Simpson. So, on Friday, The Athletic was able to run its Simpson piece, which the outlet promoted on Twitter.
“For the first time in 12 years, he speaks on the record about the arc of his complicated legacy.”
Simpson was acquitted in the 1994 double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. He was subsequently found liable in a wrongful death civil suit. To this day, Simpson continues to fight to avoid paying the damages, while in the interceding years he’s spent time in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. Meanwhile, he rubs the public’s face in the fact that he was not convicted of the two murders, making “Olympus Has Fallen” jokes about the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol and asking, “Will it be justice for all?”
For what it’s worth, Simpson was speaking “on the record about the arc of his complicated legacy” back in January, when he said, “I’ve been in the legal system, and I’ve had verdicts that I didn’t agree with. But I believe in the American system. I believe in the jury system. So, I felt I had to honor it, and I tried to honor it as best I could, and move on.” He just wasn’t speaking in an interview.
He was also lying. Simpson has not tried to honor it as best he could. He’s vigorously fought against paying damages to Ron Goldman’s family for two-and-a-half decades.
The only reason to run an interview with Simpson in 2021 is if he’s ready to finally come clean about what happened in 1994. Otherwise, he’s not bringing anything new to the table, and talking about “the arc of his complicated legacy,” as if there’s some balance to be struck between being good at football and getting away with murder is phenomenally disrespectful to his victims, who aren’t here to talk about “the arc of his complicated legacy.”
There are a lot of reasons to pay for The Athletic, where Katie Strang and Brittany Ghiroli in particular have done astounding, important, and eye-opening work breaking news on sexual assault cases and other important stories. There’s a lot more on the site that’s worth clicking on and reading.
A chance for Orenthal James Simpson to say, in a pull quote, “How many Americans, even today, wouldn’t like to live my life?” Let’s just say The Athletic is riding the arc of a complicated legacy here.