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OJ Simpson honoured In Memoriam segment at BET Awards

OJ Simpson was honoured at the 2024 BET Awards on Sunday (30 June), leaving the otherwise upbeat celebration in awkward silence.

The show took place at the Peacock Theatre in Los Angeles, and was hosted by Oscar-nominated Empire star, Taraji P Henson, marking her third time presenting the event.

Set up in 2001 by the Black Entertainment Television network, the awards show seeks to celebrate Black entertainers and other minorities in music, film, sports, and philanthropy.

During the show, an “In Memoriam” segment was aired featuring Night at the Museum actor Bill Cobbs, Rocky actor Carl Weathers, Major League Baseball player Willie Mays, and music executive Clarence Avant.

Other luminaries to be featured in the segment included 2 Live Crew rapper Brother Marquis, tap dancer Maurice Hines, civil rights activist Dexter Scott King, and Shaft star Richard Roundtree. This Is Us actor Ron Cephas Jones, musician Rudolph Isley, Iron Eagle star Louis Gossett Jr, and Irish Grinstead of the group 702 were also honoured.

The audience had been applauding along to images of the stars as they appeared, but a notable silence fell over the crowd as a picture captioned with “Former NFL Player” appeared on the screen, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Applause slowly picked up thereafter.

The football star, who memorably appeared in the Naked Gun films, was notorious for being acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. He died in April this year, aged 76.

Simpson, who was battling prostate cancer, was surrounded by his children and grandchildren, according to a family statement released on social media.

OJ Simpson was honoured at the 2024 BET Awards

OJ Simpson was honoured at the 2024 BET Awards (AFP via Getty Images)

Often regarded as one of the greatest running backs of all time, Simpson found his football and acting career overshadowed by the media circus of his 1995 “trial of the century” for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.

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His acquittal, by a mostly Black jury, became a seminal moment in US cultural history. It came just three years after the Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted for beating Rodney King, sparking the 1992 LA race riots.

After news of his death broke, an attorney for Goldman’s family said Simpson “died without penance.”

Although he was acquitted of the criminal charges, a civil court in 1996 found him guilty of their murders and ordered him to pay over $30m (£23.6m) to the victim’s families. He only paid some of the debt before his death.

A father of five children (one of whom died as a toddler), Simpson had spent his later years leaning into his notoriety – including his 2016 book If I Did It, the rights of which ended up going to Goldman’s family, and regularly commenting on other high-profile murder and legal cases.


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