O.J. Simpson’s Return to Innocence

O.J. Simpson Christianity

Could “The Juice” Potentially Find God?

Prior to the year 1994, O.J. Simpson would have been revered mostly as a football legend, since he first became famous for setting a record as the first running back to have a 2,003 yard season in 1973. But this man now sets records with his ability to reinvent himself, for better or worse.

During a recent interview with Simpson on Full Send podcast, hosted by Kyle Forgeard and Aaron Steinberg, Simpson stated that when it comes to interviews, “I stay away from last century. Because I did a ton of interviews back then and it made no difference. Nobody changes their mind.” Simpson stated that he prefers now to focus on events from his life that occurred in the 21st century. Presumably, Simpson means that he no longer wants to talk about the unforgettable 1994 murder trial for which he was the main suspect in the brutal slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. Sure enough, when Forgeard and Steinberg asked Simpson about the 1994 murders, he firmly expressed that he did not want to discuss it.

And even though Simpson did recently post a Twitter video with comments on the Alex Murdaugh trial, he avoided mentioning his 1994 murder trial, and only referenced his recent prison stay for trying to retrieve his own stolen property.

During the Full Send podcast interview, Simpson also lamented that while he gets plenty of invites for interviews, he now turns down most of them. He makes exceptions for interviews related to the sports world.

The Superstar in Rent-a-Car Became a “Marriage Made in Heaven”

Simpson’s desire to keep his public exposure sports-related, as he mentioned in the recent Full Send podcast interview, is fascinating to me. Because his goal was the complete opposite when he began his role as advertising spokesperson for Hertz car rentals back in 1975, and subsequently became known for quickly and gracefully leaping over luggage racks during Hertz commercials, with a suitcase in one hand and a trench coat in the other. Hertz executives discovered prior to launching the campaign that many businesspeople consider renting a car to be a “necessary evil,” and wanted the transaction to be fast and easy. What’s a better symbol of speed than Simpson, a Heisman trophy winner known as one of the greatest running backs in football history?

Hertz began to see positive results from Simpson’s advertisements almost immediately. In the first three quarters of 1976, the company saw net profits yield $532.6 million, which was a 47 percent increase from the year prior. Also, shortly after Simpson began the campaign there was a 36 percent increase in the number of people who considered Hertz to be the best rental car company.

Tom Elliott is my grandfather, and he also happened to be vice president of public relations for Hertz during the time when Simpson came on board. “It was a marriage made in heaven,” is how Elliott described the relationship between Hertz and Simpson. This quote was used by writer Randy Harvey in a 1977 Chicago Sun-Times article OJ.’s Hertz Commercials Like Heaven Made Marriage. Elliott’s job was to go beyond the advertisements and develop an association between Simpson and Hertz on the editorial side, with television and radio broadcasts and newspapers. “One of our jobs was to try to get him off the sports pages and onto the business pages of the newspapers and we were able to do that,” says Elliott.

O.J. Simpson Hertz

A case in point was the 1976 cover article of the New York Times, dressed up with photos of Simpson in his business suit from Hertz advertisements, contrasted next to a photo of Simpson in his football gear. The article’s title was Hertz Is Renting O. J. Simpson and They Both Stand to Gain. Sure enough, in 1976, Simpson was making between $100,00 and $250,000 a year for his work with Hertz. Eventually, that yearly salary turned into $550,000. “OJ Simpson liked it because he was wanting to end his career as a football player and become an actor and he wanted recognition that he couldn’t get with his helmet on and his uniform,” says Elliott.

Suddenly, I feel like I am watching the music video for German musical project Enigma’s song “Return to Innocence” where everything is going backwards and returning to it’s original state. Because in a lot of ways, now Simpson is now reverting back to his pre-Hertz, pre-acting, sports-related beginnings, when he wasn’t trying to gain editorial exposure. He even discussed with Full Send podcast how he coached his softball team during his nine-year prison sentence in Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.

Could “The Juice” Potentially Find God?

I am now getting this feeling that Simpson, nicknamed “The Juice,” is ready for his next chapter. If he wants to continue his reinvention and return to innocence, he could lean into another aspect of his life: his relationship with God. During the Full Send podcast interview, Simpson was asked about his religious views. He responded by saying he was raised Christian. When asked if he would in any way be scared to face God when he dies, Simpson responded “No, I look forward to it. I know where my weaknesses were, I regret being unfaithful. I think I made up for it, hopefully I made up for it with my other deeds. But we’ll see.”

During his time at Hertz, Simpson once mentioned to Elliott that his first wife, Marguerite Simpson, had been involved with a Bible study. And though Simpson was unfaithful to her when he became involved with the now-deceased Nicole Brown, Whitley stood by Simpson during his 1994 trial. In 1995, Whitley told ABC’s Barbara Walters that he never was physically violent with her, and that she believed him to be innocent of the murder of Brown and Goldman and was even willing to testify.

Christianity has been mentioned other times during Simpson’s life. During the five year prison sentence he served for his robbery charges, Simpson’s manager Norman Pardo told the Daily Mail in 2013 that Simpson had a religious rebirth. As a result of this, Simpson was reportedly able to counsel many of his cellmates, including a white supremacist who ended up converting to Christianity. Back in 2013, Pardo said that Simpson also had plans to launch a faith-based TV show called “Holy Safari, which would “ feature OJ traveling the world exploring local ideologies and interviewing religious leaders – including the Pope.” Of course, these plans never came to fruition, but it’s never too late to revisit them.

O.J. Simpson was Known at Hertz for Being Easy to Work With

Simpson has displayed redeemable qualities in years past. When I asked Elliott what Simpson was like as a business partner, he said the “superstar in rent-a-car” was very nice and easy to work with, and that when they traveled he was always concerned about making sure the porters handling their luggage received the tips they deserved. Upon the news of the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, with Simpson turning up as the prime suspect, Newsweek published an article called Day and Night. Elliott was quoted as saying “He would literally sign autographs so much that he would have to get up and walk away because his hand would just cramp. It was a very hectic schedule, but he never complained. He was polite through the whole thing.”

Elliott was not alone in this sentiment. In 1994, the Washington Post reported that most Hertz employees found Simpson to be good natured, never to complain or throw tantrums, which would have been expected behavior from many other celebrities. Simpson stayed as long as was necessary to get the job done and didn’t give people a hard time because of his superstar status. “O.J. was a dream in public, very gracious and very appreciative of what Hertz had done for him even after he was not as involved with them,” said Murray Gaylord, a former account supervisor for New York’s Scali, McCabe, Sloves, which was an advertising agency contracted by Hertz in the early 1980s.

What’s the Current National Temperature on the 1994 O.J. Simpson Murder Scandal?

When I asked Elliott what his thoughts were on Simpson’s 1994 murder scandal, he says “nothing I ever experienced with OJ Simpson would indicate to me that he was capable of murder.” Simpson’s murder trial culminated with the sensational deliverance of a verdict of innocence, though it seems that most of the American public assumes otherwise. Some individuals in the media have expressed belief that the reason Simpson wasn’t found guilty was because evidence was mishandled (and potentially planted) by the Los Angeles Police Department, or that investigator Mark Fuhrman’s past history of using racial slurs presented a conflict of interest. Others believe that prosecutor Christopher Darden’s choice to have Simpson try on the glove in front of the jury (which prompted defense attorney Johnnie Cochran to voice the famous line “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit!”) did a lot to sway the panel of jurors. There are other theories that have surfaced since the trial ended in 1994. Dallas private investigator William Dear speculated back in 2012 that Simpson was actually covering up for his son who committed the crimes. While some of the evidence Dear presented in a book he wrote is compelling, it doesn’t dismiss the highly suspicious behavior presented by O.J. Simpson himself. We may never know what actually happened.

It seems that Simpson made it from the sports pages to the business pages to completely monopolizing the airwaves of mainstream media, perhaps unlike any other person in history. And now he has come full circle, reverting back to the sports mediums and skirting much of the mainstream press. So what’s the next step in Simpson’s return to innocence? I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes reborn and accepts Jesus Christ as his Messiah.

O.J. Simpson Christianity

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: