O.J. Simpson is riffing on Zach Wilson and the Jets. Should America be paying attention?
Twitter gave a platform to a man a majority of Americans believe committed a double murder. And he’s reveling in it
On Tuesday, a former NFL running back took to social media to talk about the Bills-Jets game, in which Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury had been broadcast to shocked viewers nationwide.
That’s not unusual — commentary by former NFL superstars is part and parcel of the league’s media coverage. Nor is it unusual for such commentary to get lots of attention.
What is unusual, however, is that this particular running back is named O.J. Simpson.
Although Simpson was found not guilty of the 1994 murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, a majority of Americans believe he was “definitely” or “probably guilty,” and those numbers have gone up over time.
He was later found liable in civil court for the deaths and ordered to pay the families $33.5 million, money the families are still trying to collect. And a subsequent conviction and imprisonment for armed robbery and kidnapping led to his imprisonment for nine years.
With this sort of resume, it was widely assumed that Simpson would become a cultural pariah; Time magazine said as much in 1995. It’s somewhat shocking, then, to watch him banter on X, formerly known as Twitter, where he set up an account in 2019, just days after the 25th anniversary of the murders.
There, he enjoys a platform of nearly 876,000 followers who can see him riff on Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, his Fantasy Football lineup, the Screen Actors Guild strike and various other topics that catch his fancy — sometimes with a swimming pool and palm trees as his background, other times a bar or a golf course.
He looks like a man living his dream, cracking jokes like calling himself “O.J. Mahomey” while wearing a Kansas City Chiefs jersey with Patrick Mahomes’ number, 15.
Although there was initial outrage when Simpson established his Twitter account — and he was apparently unable to get verified until he was able to purchase a blue check — his reach on X is greater than people like Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, GOP presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen.
And he seems to be reveling in the attention.
“Hey, X world, it’s me, yours truly,” Simpson began today’s post, and then chuckled, before rambling for three minutes about his Fantasy Football lineup.
Two days earlier, after Rodgers’ injury elevated Wilson to quarterback, Simpson reflected on the former BYU star, saying, “I think Zach is the best choice; he has the skills and I think he has learned a lot. I think he grew up a lot this off-season because of Rodgers. I think Rodgers, when he can, will be on the sideline, or up in a box, be in his ear. ... He’s on his way to having the career they had hoped he have.”
He has shared legal advice with Donald Trump (“Do not talk about the case publicly”), evaluated Tucker Carlson (“He should have been fired”) and shared how he began Easter Sunday in prayer and then moved on to watching the Masters.
There is seemingly nothing in the news he is not inclined to talk about. He’s weighed in on the Alex Murdaugh trial in South Carolina. He even had an opinion on Gwyneth Paltrow’s skiing lawsuit and shared his own anecdote of crashing twice while skiing at Deer Valley. (“It’s a beautiful place. I didn’t go back though, because I didn’t like the runs, I thought they were real narrow.”)
On and on it goes. Just Simpson talking to 875,000 of his closest friends about anything that comes to mind.
I suppose we should take comfort in the fact that he hasn’t cracked a million followers. The week after he began posting on Twitter, he had amassed 750,00 followers. So maybe sub-900K is peak Simpson on social media.
The problem is, it’s not just X providing Simpson with a platform. X is just the starting point. The media magnifies what he posts there, with alarming regularity.
Recent headlines include “O.J. Simpson makes disturbing 9/11 joke,” “O.J. Simpson reveals who left him most impressed in 2023 Republican debate” and “O.J. Simpson on Ramaswamy: ‘Hey, this guy is onto something.’”
Part of the attention, I know, is the byproduct of a common human failing: our inability to look away from train wrecks. There is simple voyeurism involved, and also a kind of incredulousness about how we got from the “Trial of the Century” to this. And to be sure, a good many of Simpson’s followers are members of the media who watch him precisely for the headlines he generates.
“I followed him because he was newsworthy,” one of Simpson’s followers told me when I asked.
Fair enough. But you can look at what Simpson posts without giving him the validation of a follow, and it seems a moral failing of all of us, collectively, that Simpson has more followers than Kim Goldman, Ronald Goldman’s sister, now a victim’s advocate.
America has many pariahs these days, though few are former NFL stars. Those who give them a platform generally open themselves up to harsh criticism, as happened when Megyn Kelly interviewed Alex Jones in 2017.
But many in the media seem to give O.J. Simpson a pass, even if not everyone who comments on his X account does. (“Killer take,” one person wrote in response to a post this week.) And the number of engagements with his posts must give Simpson at least a vague sense of his glory days.
As such, the “Trial of the Century” never really ends, certainly not for the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, for whom Simpson’s jovial videos must be a source of pain or fury. For them, there’s a simple thing that 875,000 people could do in solidarity. It just takes a second. Unfollow.