O.J. Simpson dies at 76, leaving a complicated legacy | Inside Coverage

Yahoo Sports’ Jason Fitz is joined by senior NFL writer Jori Epstein and senior NFL reporter Charles Robinson to discuss the complicated and controversial legacy of O.J. Simpson. Hear the full conversation on “Inside Coverage” - part of the “Zero Blitz” podcast - and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

JASON FITZ: It would be weird, frankly, if we didn't address the big breaking news as we tape here this morning. I think everybody was a little jarred to see the breaking news that OJ Simpson has passed, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 76. I just want to be real for a minute because we didn't really talk about how we want to talk about this, which I think is kind of key here.

Because it's just complicated. As much as we talk about NFL Hall of Famers and their legacy when they pass, there's also just this whole other conversation about OJ that has nothing to do with football. And I don't know the appropriate way to handle any of this on a day like today.

CHARLES ROBINSON: It's definitely something that is at the nexus of sports, culture, entertainment, police brutality, all the different things that were going on at the time of the OJ Simpson trial. The fallout from it, it was interesting. Because when the news dropped, it started a text message conversation between myself and others about the day that the verdict was read in the OJ Simpson trial.

For a lot of us, that is the height, the pinnacle of OJ being a part of our lifetime, if it's not the Bronco chase, right? The thing that sticks out where we're like, this feels so surreal and eclipsed, what, the NFL's first 2,000-yard rusher, a Hall of Famer, an iconic player at the running back position.

You kind of need six, seven, eight hours to really fully dive into what OJ Simpson was, how his life and career unfolded, and then obviously the murder trial and verdict that became a fabric of popular culture for us in terms of things that we remember in our lifetime and where we were when they happened.

JORI EPSTEIN: I was born in 1994 as all of this was kind of coming to a close. And so I do think there are people in my generation for whom the trial, the car chase, those are much more what they think about-- even the acting, before they think about the football career, if they think about it at all, and certainly what he actually did on the field.

And so I know the Pro Football Hall of Fame put out a statement about acknowledging his on-field accomplishments. And I do think that's sort of the struggle with a lot of things. I mean, we saw this in some of the Kobe coverage of how do you make sense of a guy who's as complicated as he was. And OJ is not the first or the last athlete for whom this will be a complicated conversation.

JASON FITZ: The complication here for me will always be, at the end of the day, a jury of his peers found him innocent or found him at least not guilty. So he went through the legal process, was found not guilty. It's complicated because nobody wants to accept anything that a jury had a chance to accept.

CHARLES ROBINSON: I understand and respect the jury's decision. I think there were a lot of different things that went into it at that time. He was always going to be judged in the court of public opinion after that verdict was released.