Can O.J. Simpson Turn His Life Around?

We’ve read every variation on the same headline this week—“The Juice is loose.”

Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson is free after spending nine years in jail for kidnapping and armed robbery. Of course, we know O.J. Simpson far better for his dubious acquittal on the charges of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

We all know what’s coming next. Simpson, now seventy years old, will gift his first post-prison interview to the highest bidder, According to The Hollywood Reporter, he’s already seeking in the neighborhood of $3 million. He’ll profess his innocence (again). And media outlets will trip over themselves to cross examine every syllable for anything resembling a slip up, if not a subtle confession.

His every move will be scrutinized, just like before. What could he do to chart a new course for the rest of his life, to demonstrate that he has genuinely been rehabilitated?

For starters, he can avoid the post-jail interview. It might mean losing significant cash or media leverage. So be it. He’s not running for office or pining for his own reality TV show (at least we all hope not).

The interview windfall won’t save him from his monetary woes anyway. Simpson owes in excess of $70 million in damages and interest payments to the families of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, who won a wrongful death lawsuit against Simpson after his acquittal on criminal charges.

The spotlight will likely always follow Simpson. Why not use that to showcase the lives of others who have done positive things for their communities?

For example, Simpson is uniquely situated to address the growing concern over CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, tied to football-related head injuries. Simpson could work with researchers directly; indeed, the man who coined the term suspects Simpson himself likely suffers from CTE. Or Simpson could serve as a liaison between former players and physicians studying its long-term impact.

It’s not impossible for even notorious criminals to do something good with their freedom, even if the repercussions of their criminal deeds never go away. Want an extreme example? Stanley Tookie Williams, the man who co-created the Crips gang. Williams spent his final years in jail after being found guilty on four counts of murder and two counts of robbery. But he found God while incarcerated, renouncing gang life via a series of children’s books aimed at steering kids from the path he had taken. President George W. Bush hailed his late-in-life activism. He never got out of jail. He died by lethal injection in 2005.

Duane Chapman, better known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” served five years for murder beginning in 1977. He later flipped the script on his life and began chasing bail jumpers, which led to the creation of his popular A&E show.

Greg Mathis is best known these days for his legal TV show, Judge Mathis. But years ago, he rolled with a Detroit street gang and was incarcerated as a teenager. He made a vow to his dying mother to change his ways, and he did just that. He went to college, became a campus activist and served as a superior court judge in Michigan before finding small screen fame.

Will Simpson do any of the above? It would require him to make serious changes in his lifestyle and behavior. He’s been a creature of the media for decades, long before the 24/7 news cycle began. And he’s not off to a promising start. He went from a jail cell to living at a friend’s palatial estate near Las Vegas, hardly the setting for a thorough reevaluation of his choices.

Nothing Simpson does from here on will excuse his previous actions, of course, not even a full confession. What he does in his golden years, however, now that he is out of prison, is use the time he has to try to give something back to the world that saw fit to give him his freedom—and yet another chance to turn his life around.

Image: YouTube/ABC News

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