[The following is adapted from an AFOJS post in which I replied to a poster (Al Walker) who was highly critical of Simpson's character. I had previously had a somewhat negative idea myself, but here I consider the question seriously for the first time, and conclude that Simpson is probably not nearly so bad a person as he is generally portrayed.]
REACTIONARY ME: Now, I think so little of your powers to understand, that I am completely sure that if you believe so little of Simpson, then the opposite must be true. So, I have re-examined the question of Simpson's character, and now realize that I was wrong in thinking the worst of him. I now see that your uncharitable slant is nothing more than the result of your herd instinct, and your blind susceptibility to the media spin. In fact, I now realize that Simpson was a warm and caring person, generous to a fault, and friendly as a big dog. Let's look at a few specifics.
AS SPORTS LEGEND: Although Simpson's days on the gridiron had long been over, he continued to project the image of an all-American hero, greeting ordinary people in public (airports, shopping, on the street, restaurants,..) cheerfully signing autographs, and chatting to what ever extent time permitted. This was in marked contrast to most retired athletes that just waddle from the refrigerator to the couch to watch more sports on TV. And, he did not do this in an arrogant way, as with many celebrities, but often ("Naked Gun" movies) did it in a way in which he seemed to be laughing at himself. He was just a fun, easy-to-like guy.
AS BENEFACTOR: Although he was not in the financial stratosphere that would allow him to be one of the all-time great philanthropists, Simpson did not forget the less fortunate. For many years he had given financial support to youth programs in the San Francisco ghetto of his childhood. He frequently appeared at Hollywood fundraisers for important causes, and the night before the crimes was at such a function to honor one of Israel's leading citizens. He was also generous in his gifts to friends, and when any fell on financial reversals Simpson was there in a quiet but effective way to help a friend get through it to what ever extent money could solve the problem.
AS FATHER: A father's first obligation to his children is to provide for them, and this requires that he himself find a way to make money. Unlike many other ex-athletes, Simpson developed a lucrative after-the-arena career, and he did not keep it all for himself. He had agreed to generous alimony and child support payments, and unlike many other celebrities, he had been faithful in making them. It is less than ideal from the children's standpoint that the career that Simpson came to was one that took him away from them often and for long periods, but that is one of the realities of life. The best career possibilities for a man are not always those that allow him to spend all his time with his children. But, when Simpson was in town he spent time with them, was thoughtful of them, and was warm and loving to them. This is seen in the after-performance video at the recital (a moment when Simpson was angry at the children's mother, but was nonetheless warm and cheerful toward the children themselves) and the fact that a one of his last acts before leaving on a trip for Chicago Sunday night, he took time to call his children and talk to them on the phone.
AS HUSBAND: This is the area for which Simpson is most criticized, largely because of 1) his history of philandering, 2) his acts of stalking and publicly humiliating her, and the widely publicized 3) October 1993 9-1-1 call from Nicole, and the 4) Polaroid pictures of her bruised face, as a result of his having beat her in January, 1989. Some of Simpson's acts that have been criticized (affair with Paula Barbieri, interfering with the relationship with Zlomsowitch, etc.) were not done at the time Simpson was married to Nicole, and so are not indications that he was a bad husband. In fact, insofar as stalking and interfering may be considered as indications that he had possessive feelings toward Nicole, even when he was not married to her, they may also be taken as showing that his regard for her was completely appropriate for a time when he had been married to her. Hence, after-divorce jealousy is actually an indication of a man who's married spirit toward the same woman was correct.
Simpson's acts of violence and humiliation toward Nicole were improper, and are considered under "FLAWS," below. His philandering while he was married is well known, and elevates him to the fraternity of JFK, Martin Luther King, Bill Clinton, an armload of congressmen (and women) and most recently revealed, Gordon Getty. The list is hardly exhaustive; in fact when celebrated men are absolutely faithful to their marriage vows, it is a cause for remark. So, like it or not, philandering seems to be a reality hazard of being married to a celebrity, and Simpson can not be much blamed for this alone.
In other circumstances, it is quickly said that a girl that steals a man away from his wife should not expect absolute fidelity from him when she later marries him herself. This is exactly what Nicole did, but the fact is never mentioned. Nonetheless, her complaints about OJ's philandering fall on rather deaf ears over here. In undertaking the relationship with Nicole in the first place, Simpson made certain sacrifices for her, and was thereby loving toward her. (Some men leave their first wives for another which the never get around to marrying.) While they were married, Simpson was often attentive and generous with Nicole, and patient with her sometimes erratic moods. When she pleaded for a reconciliation in May of 1993, at a time when Simpson had a stable and comfortable relationship with Barbieri, he gave up the new relationship to resume with Nicole. So, if he did some things for which he could be criticized, he also was at other times loving and patient with her.
FLAWS: It has been alleged that Simpson used illegal drugs (cocaine) and I believe those rumors are true. As much as I think the practice is a mistake, and it is also illegal, it is not uncommon in upscale Westside communities. Only by holding Simpson to a higher standard than other ex-athletes, movie and recording stars, and probably even prosecutors, can one think little of him for this.
But, there were the incidents of beating and publicly (and privately) humiliating Nicole, and I believe that those reports are true. However, as close as I can determine from the record, all of these occurred under a particular and specific set of circumstances: Simpson (and often Nicole as well) had been drinking. The most notorious of these was the New Years 1989 incident which was the culmination of a three-day-straight drinking party that had started in Hawaii, and resulted in Simpson's beating Nicole so severely as to make the marks seen in the Polaroid. The extent of Nicole's provocation that led to this is not similarly documented.
Each of the several incidents Nicole's sister, Denise, recounted were when she was with Simpson in a situation (e.g., Red Onion, etc.) where everybody had been drinking. Other incidents that were related as third-party hearsay, but which I also believe were true (Las Vegas hallway, Nicole locked in wine cellar,...) appear to be similar instances where Simpson had been drinking, in some cases heavily. So, Simpson appears to be a "mean drunk." That is a serious character flaw, but he is not be the only one that has it. And, it explains another thing. Very often a person who does things while they are drunk will not have a clear recollection of them afterward, but rather he forms his understanding according to a reconstruction of what he "would have done" (in a sober condition.) This could explain why Simpson is so disbelieving that he did the abusive things to Nicole, of which the record is so certain that he did.
CONCLUSION: So, I conclude that Simpson was actually a pretty good guy in the time before the murders. He was not perfect (few are) but was better than most. And, simply on the basis of his character he does not deserve the contempt in which he is held here and beyond. That low esteem is just the result of a media campaign, abetted by a few special interests.
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (9/01/99) NG_580b