Yesterday, the world once again tuned in live to watch OJ Simpson—this time, as he sat before the Nevada Board of Parole for a hearing regarding his 2008 conviction. Simpson, once a famous football player and actor, reached the peak of his infamy when he was accused of brutally killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994. The world watched live as the police chased him in his white Bronco down a Los Angeles freeway, and reactions were mixed when he was acquitted and later sued for wrongful death in civil court. Simpson’s parole has nothing to do with this homicide case, but rather with his 2008 conviction for kidnapping, armed robbery and ten other charges. The hearing was held as he approached the minimum of a nine-to-thirty-three-year sentence. The hearing was supposed to last fifteen minutes; it took two hours, and much of that time was taken up by Simpson’s rambling answers. Simpson was granted parole and can be released as early as October 1.
I wasn’t born yet when everyone sat glued to their televisions watching that infamous car chase; however, I am no less familiar than anyone else with the tale of Simpson, his trial and acquittal, the bloody, shrunken glove or the sound of Nicole’s panicked voice as she spoke to the 911 operator about her fear of being killed by her ex-husband. In fact, anyone with access to a television, computer or smartphone can hardly avoid knowing who Simpson is or be unfamiliar with this brutal event. Simpson and his first trial have lived on in our pop culture memories.
In 2016, the TV series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story appeared on FX, while ESPN released O.J.: Made in America. Simpson has also become a popular cultural icon, with references made to him on shows such as Family Guy and Seinfeld. Furthermore, Simpson and Nicole Brown were good friends with attorney Robert Kardashian and his wife Kris Jenner. The children of the Kardashian and Jenner clan all took different sides in the case, and have since discussed it on their reality TV show, Keeping up with the Kardashians. They have even gone so far as to discuss the rumors that Khloe Kardashian’s real father is Simpson.
To this day people still debate whether or not Simpson is guilty of murdering Brown and Goldman. While following the “OJ Simpson Parole” feed on Twitter, it became clear that many people had no clue that Simpson was not currently incarcerated for the murders of Brown and Goldman. Moreover, one member of the board told Simpson that they would not be considering his past homicide trial when deciding his parole status—a fact that angered many people and was met with skepticism by others. Nevertheless, regardless of the decision made by the court of public opinion, Simpson was in fact paroled and there is nothing much the public can do about it now.
Except, that is, to deny him the one thing he’s had for decades: attention. There’s no reason to continue our country’s unhealthy obsession with this particular dysfunctional celebrity. This might even be a mercy to Simpson, who, according to many accounts, has shown signs of delusional behavior. During his hearing, Simpson made the erroneous statement that he has led a “conflict-free life.” In fact, former prosecutor Christopher Darden argued that while Simpson may have been a model prisoner, it does not guarantee that he will make a well-behaved private citizen. Darden said that Simpson should not be released, because of his “narcissistic tendencies” and past “manipulation.”
Like many others, I believe that Simpson is most likely guilty of the murders of Brown and Goldman, and while a part of me wants him to stay in prison for the rest of his life, I respect a justice system that did not consider his past trial in another case (in which he was acquitted) when determining his current status. However, I feel relieved by the firm statement made by one board member—that a violation of his parole conditions would not be taken lightly. Let’s hope for the best—that Simpson will fade from the public eye and live life as a law-abiding private citizen.
To do that, we should stop giving him the attention he craves and keep him out of our stories and narratives, at least for the sake of the Brown and Goldman families. While it’s unlikely that we could ever forget him or the impact of the murder trial on the American people, he does not need to remain a part of our ongoing cultural narrative. Now that he’s set to be paroled, let’s stop lavishing attention on Simpson, and his fellow criminals and narcissists.