HomeSportsOJ Simpson's legacy rang loudest in the place where his death brought...

OJ Simpson’s legacy rang loudest in the place where his death brought silence

OJ Simpson died on Wednesday. The day it happened was always complicated.

When a Pro Football Hall of Famer passes away, it usually triggers an outpouring of quotes and memories from his teams, his teammates, famous fans and more. But Simpson clearly wasn’t just any Hall of Famer.

After a successful NFL career and in the midst of a successful acting career, Simpson stood trial and was found not guilty for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, despite what the public believed to be strong evidence of his debt. Simpson avoided prison at the time, but spent the rest of his life in a unique kind of public purgatory, eventually going to prison for another crime.

So what is there to say when someone dies afterwards? That?

If you’re the Buffalo Bills or the San Francisco 49ers, the two teams Simpson played for during his NFL career, you say… nothing. As of Thursday evening, neither team has released a single statement or posted anything on their website acknowledging Simpson.

The same goes for the NFL and Simpson’s alma mater at USC, which still owns its Heisman Trophy, which has its own bizarre history.

1975: OJ Simpson #32 of the Buffalo Bills looks on during an NFL game circa 1975. (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images)

OJ Simpson leaves behind a legacy more complicated and compromised than any NFL star. (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images)

The most official organizations to recognize Simpson were the organizers of the Heisman Trophy and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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The Heisman Trust released a brief statement about X, saying they mourned Simpson’s passing and extended their condolences to his family. They also published a short article on their website, discussing his football achievements and nothing else.

The replies to that tweet are…not what you’d call sad.

The Hall of Fame, which often plays a role in confirming the deaths of its members, went a similar route with a much longer statement on Simpson’s death, again focusing solely on his football achievements. The only acknowledgment of anything other than football might be in the one quote, in which the president simply says that Simpson’s achievements will not be removed from the audience:

β€œOJ Simpson was the first player to reach a rushing milestone that many thought could not be achieved in a 14-game season when he topped 2,000 yards,” said Jim Porter, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. β€œHis contributions on the field will be preserved in the archives of the Hall in Canton, Ohio.”

You can compare that to other recent Hall of Fame obituaries, which go into much more detail about the subject’s life, with several quotes remembering their greatness.

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The College Football Hall of Fame, which also enshrines Simpson, did not release a statement.

However, there wasn’t total silence in the NFL about Simpson. A few current and former players tweeted with varying levels of reverence:

Reactions from Simpson’s old teammates, however, seemed sparse. The Associated Press had just a few players in its collection of responses:

β€œWe didn’t really get along at first. But we ended up being roommates and all that. So we had an excellent relationship. We’ve done a lot of things together. We went through a lot when he had his good years in Buffalo. β€” Booker Edgerson, Simpson’s teammate in Buffalo, by phone with The Associated Press.

“I’m sad because when people die, you think, ‘Oh God, that’s terrible.’ But what happened to him, and maybe he brought it on himself, but he was an icon in the nation. And he meant a lot of people who did those commercials. He did a lot for the black race, even though he didn’t know it. He wasn’t Muhammad Ali or anything, but he did things for athletes and not just black athletes, but he got us into something really big. That’s what I think of him. He was a founding father.” – Joe DeLamielleure, Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Simpson’s teammate in Buffalo, by phone with The Associated Press.

Through it all you see the division between Simpson, the player, and Simpson, the accused murderer. Between the two halves of the same man is a line that few cross, because most football people don’t want to reveal the significant legacy his trial had for America, or his history of domestic violence against Brown, while the people who focus on that trial understandably they are. β€œI’m not really interested in how he ran for 2,000 yards in a season.

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The last side will always have the most impact, especially for those who have a personal relationship with a woman who would now be 65 and a man who would now be 56:

β€œAll I have to say is it’s just a reminder that Ron has been gone all these years,” Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman’s father, said in a telephone interview. ‘It’s not a great loss to the world. It’s a further reminder of Ron’s passing.”

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