Sports

O.J. Simpson, in rare interview, speaks on CTE, Colin Kaepernick, Michael Jackson and jail

O.J. Simpson, shown here attending a parole hearing at Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., last July, gave his first “substantial interview in a decade” to the Buffalo News.
O.J. Simpson, shown here attending a parole hearing at Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., last July, gave his first “substantial interview in a decade” to the Buffalo News. TNS

Late Friday morning, the Buffalo News published what the newspaper claimed was O.J. Simpson’s first “substantial interview in a decade,” and “his first extensively about football” since the ’90s.

Only, the Juice got loose on a lot more than football.

“I get so many offers to talk,” Simpson, 70, said from the Las Vegas house where he’s staying, “but everybody wants to talk about the crap.”

That “crap,” of course, is the 1994 murders of his ex-wife and her friend, for which he was acquitted by a jury but lost a $33.5 million civil suit. And in 2008, Simpson was convicted for felony and armed robbery and sentenced to 33 years in jail after an attempt to recovery what he said was stolen sports memorabilia. He was released on parole last October.

Simpson talked about all of that, actually, and more. He had plenty to say:

▪ He hasn’t watched any of the TV specials about him, including the Fox “confession” special that aired last weekend.

“When people want to make money or get ratings,” Simpson said, “they're going to pimp me. I'm going to get pimped.”

▪ While in jail, Simpson missed attending funerals for relatives and some of his famous friends, including Michael Jackson and Muhammad Ali.

“I actually cried in 1996, when (Ali) lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta,” Simpson said. “I was in tears. I'm getting tears now, thinking about it. I'm from the ’60s. I saw the hate white America had on Muhammad Ali. Those same people grew to love and respect him. That was moving.”

Simpson said Jackson once helped him start a camp for kids with cancer and would allow Simpson’s own children to visit Neverland Ranch for long weekends. After Simpson’s 1995 acquittal, Jackson supported Simpson’s family.

“There came a point where my kids would come up with their best friends and stay long weekends at Neverland Ranch, with everything available to us,” Simpson said. “We were the only ones there. ...I don't know what his sexual thing was. I thought he was asexual. But he came to my aid.”

▪ Simpson talked about concussions he suffered in football and wondered if he’s suffering from the effects of them now.

“I get concerned,” he said. “I do recognize that it probably affects you in short-term memory more than long-term. I know with me, I have days I can't find words. I literally cannot find words or the name of somebody I know. That gets a little scary. Those days happen when I’m tired.”

▪ He said he never feared for his safety in jail, that he had friends across all groups inside, and that he ran popular Fantasy Football Leagues.

“Not one minute when I was in (jail) was I ever concerned about anybody,” Simpson said. “Nobody would think about screwing with me. Virtually all the guys had my back. I was setting the tone. I was helping the guys. I helped put together programs, and when there were problems, I was the guy they came to to mediate.”

▪ And Simpson said he understood why former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was protesting, against police brutality in the black community, but didn’t agree with his method of doing so: kneeling during the national anthem.

“I think Colin made a mistake,” Simpson said. “I really appreciate what he was trying to say. I thought he made a bad choice in attacking the flag. I grew up at a time when deacons were in the KKK. I don't disrespect the Bible because of those guys. The flag shouldn't be disrespected because of what cops do. The flag represents what we want America to be.

"When he did it the first time, I thought, ‘Well, you took a gamble, and I give you credit.’ But it was him continuing to do it where he made the biggest mistake. I'm a firm believer of doing what you think is right, but I would always stand for the flag.”

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