O.J. Simpson: Why We Still Care About Him 16 Years After Bronco Chase
O.J. Simpson and his infamous white Bronco chase interrupted Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets 16 years ago.
But amazingly, people across the globe were transfixed to both the chase and the ongoing trial of O.J. Simpson following the brutal murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in June 1994.
O.J. Simpson was eventually acquitted after a nine-month trial—the longest jury trial in California history, according to Wikipedia—culminating with numerous outrages and responses following the verdict.
Today, we will be taking a closer look as to why we still care about him 16 years after the Bronco chase—counting down 10 reasons as to why O.J. Simpson still matters…
No. 10: Notable Phrases That Will Live On Forever
One of the most notable phrases in the O.J. Simpson trial that will live on forever came from attorney Johnnie Cochran: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
And that statement is likely the gold-medal winner of them all.
During closing arguments in the O.J. Simpson trial, Cochran uttered the now famous seven-word statement—successfully convincing the jury that because the blood-soaked gloves did not fit his client's hands, they must acquit.
Race was also a major factor, which will be discussed in detail shortly—as Cochran told the mainly-black Simpson jury that police officers were trying to frame the former NFL star because of his race, according to Wikipedia.
No. 9: The Kardashian Factor
Wait, the same Kardashian as the reality series, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians?”
Yes, that’s correct.
In fact, the famous television stars are daughters of Robert Kardashian, one of O.J. Simpson’s key friends and attorneys in his 1995 murder trial.
And in essence, it was Simpson that introduced the world to the term “Kardashian” over 15 years ago in an American courtroom.
Other reality show participants on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” beyond Kim are Kourtney, Khloe, and Robert Kardashian, Jr., along with ex-wife Kris Jenner, according to Wikipedia.
No. 8: The Race Factor—How Black People Reacted to the Verdict
Regardless of one’s views on the issue, the race card was used time and time again in the O.J. Simpson trial.
According to Wikipedia, many blacks were likely to question the evidence presented in the trial due to race relations—regardless of their personal views on whether Simpson committed the crime—based on polls released following the verdict.
In addition, in a NBC poll taken in 2004, 77 percent of those sampled believed Simpson was guilty—with only 27 percent of those coming from blacks—according to Wikipedia.
No. 7: The Race Factor—How White People Reacted to the Verdict
As discussed in the prior slide, the race card was pulled numerous times in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995.
But how blacks and whites responded to Simpson’s verdict, whether in agreement with the acquittal or angry over the result, is what became a daily storyline in the days and months following the trial.
In addition, according to Wikipedia, fears grew regarding race riots in Los Angeles on the day of the verdict—resulting in police officers being put on 12-hour shifts, along with a line of over 100 police officers on horseback surrounding the L.A. county courthouse on the day of Simpson’s acquittal.
Whites were also much more vocal in local polls concerning the verdict in the Simpson trial, with 87 percent believing he was guilty based on the aforementioned NBC poll taken in 2004.
No. 6: Ratings Magnet
The O.J. Simpson trial was the biggest thing to watch on TV in 1995—and due to the enormous media coverage surrounding the case, ratings soared leading up to the verdict.
“We covered the O.J. Simpson case in part because there was huge public interest,” ABC’s Nightline anchor Ted Koppel told PBS.org in 2005. “But we would not have covered it unless there were substantive issues, and I think there really were substantive issues in the case: Can a black man receive a fair trial?
'Was his treatment by the Los Angeles Police Department such that a jury could be convinced that what seems to be slam-dunk evidence might in fact have been fabricated in some way?
“Those were big issues, and if the trial itself didn't demonstrate that, then certainly the reaction to the verdict demonstrated that more clearly than perhaps anything that's happened in recent years in the United States…”
And with the news covering the Simpson trial on a nearly 24-7 basis, the case became a ratings magnet—dragging out the entire nine months until the final verdict.
No. 5: Chase and Trial Were Defining Moments of a Generation
Regardless of the O.J. Simpson aftermath, his 1994 Bronco chase and 1995 murder trial were both defining moments of a generation.
From DA drama to over-the-edge antics, there were many times the Simpson trial ran and read more like a John Grisham novel than a real double-murder case.
And up until the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, many would probably call O.J. Simpson’s trial THE defining moment of a generation.
Everyone was watching, and everyone wanted to know what was going to happen next.
For Simpson—from the array of officers chasing him down the interstate during his Bronco low-speed run to the crowd of cameras constantly clicking and flashing during his trial—those moments not only changed the course of history, it also changed his life.
With the defining times came the ultimate decision, culminating with an acquittal verdict and post-courtroom moments that will live with us forever.
No. 4: Insane Trial Coverage in 1994
In addition to the aforementioned reasons as to why we still care of O.J. Simpson, none may ring as true as the insane trial coverage in 1994—resulting in, of course, a major boost in ratings and Americans tuning into their TV’s nightly for case updates.
One of the biggest issues when the trial first began concerned cameras in the courtroom, something Judge Lance Ito ruled was warranted.
And although the decision was later criticized, it opened the flood gates for a whirlwind of action in the days and months of Simpson’s trial.
In fact, according to Wikipedia, the trial was covered in 2,237 news segments from 1994 through 1997.
No. 3: Our Society Dwells on Falls From Grace
No matter how you slice it, the cold, hard facts of reality regarding the O.J. Simpson trial and future athlete downfalls is this: our society dwells on falls from grace.
Is it sad?
Yes; but it’s also true.
In addition to race, the way the media handled Simpson’s “fall from grace” was also discussed in detail—especially in regards to a photo and two different stories that ran in Newsweek and Time.
The Time photo, which was darker than the original print, immediately became the object of a media scandal, according to Wikipedia, as it was found the picture had been darkened for the purpose of making Simpson appear more “menacing.”
Time publicly apologized for the mishap, with many referring to the magazine as having racist editorializing, but the fact of the matter rings true: our society is enthralled with the downfall of celebrities.
No. 2: His Likability As a Celebrity (NFL, ‘Naked Gun’ Movies)
Beyond the murder trial mess in 1994-95, O.J. Simpson is also remembered for his more humble moments in life: such as his likability as a NFL celebrity and “Naked Gun” movie star.
Simpson spent 11 seasons in the NFL, spending nine years with the Buffalo Bills (1969-1977) and two years with the San Francisco 49ers (1978-1979).
He was also a six-time Pro Bowl selection and won the Heisman Trophy while at the University of Southern California in 1968.
In addition, Simpson was also famously known for his role in all three “Naked Gun” movies as Detective Nordberg—starting with the first film in 1988 (The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!) and ending with the final flick in 1994 (Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult).
No. 1: Was Justice Served in the Eyes of the Public?
The No. 1 reason we still care about O.J. Simpson 16 years after the Bronco chase circles around one basic question: was justice served in the eyes of the public?
With over 16 years to consider an answer, responses are most likely still split.
Regardless, the nine-month trial changed history—and it absolutely gave Americans and the world in general a closer look at trials, juries, and justice in the courtroom.
You tell me, though; was justice truly served in the Simpson trial back in 1995?
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at email@example.com