The trial of the century concluded on October 2, 1995 with Juice being found not guilty of murdering his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. On October 16, 1995, Minister Louis Farrakhan led the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. I recall as I stood among the million Black men in attendance that a rumor began to circulate that Juice was going to come to the March and make a few remarks. It turned out to be just a rumor. Juice had never been seen as a race man. Therefore, his rumored attendance at the Million Man March was just wishful thinking.
I was thirteen years old when Juice won the Heisman Trophy playing for USC wearing the number 32. The following football season found Juice as rookie in the NFL playing for the Buffalo Bills. I recall that it was a tradition for Bills’ rookies to have to shave their heads. I also recall a news story that said that Simpson dropped his first pass in practice. Nevertheless, as a youth, I was captivated by Juice. Prior to Juice, Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns wore number 32. His style of running was brute force. Jim Brown was also captivating. Juice, on the other hand, ran as if he were on the slopes in a downhill slalom race. His motion was fluid. His steps were tentative and explosive simultaneously. He was out of breath but ran on fumes. There is something about watching a living legend long before you ever realized that the person would become a legend.
After Juice left college, I felt a sense of loss. I would watch a succession of running backs at USC. Some even wore the number 32. However, none captured my imagination like Juice. Because he played for USC, I became a lifelong fan of the Trojans. Because Juice essentially played his entire pro career with the Buffalo Bills, I became a lifelong fan of the Buffalo Bills. At no point did I wonder about Juice’s politics. His first wife was Black. His subsequent wife and love interests all seemed to be wife females. This factor did not trouble me. Juice was not Dr. King or Malcolm X. I did not require for him to be. I was content with Juice just being Juice. Without analysis, there was something comforting to a young Black boy watching a young Black man run with such style and grace. Juice spent his last year in the league playing for San Francisco. After retiring from football his fame and fortune only grew. Juice was even in the opening segment of the original ROOTS television saga.
Millions of people were watching the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets when news of the police chase involving Juice was broadcast live on television. I recall being riveted to the images of a white Ford Bronco cruising down Los Angeles highways while being pursued by helicopters and patrol cars. Strangely enough it felt as if Juice was once again on the football field making one last one hundred yard dash for the end zone. Highway shoulders and overpasses became bleachers in the stadium. Your own living room became your luxury box. “Go Juice!” became the cheerful refrain. Based on a reservoir of goodwill and a lack of the facts involved, almost everyone was cheering for Juice. As the fans in the stadium roared and the game grew more intense, the opposing linemen began to look like the police. Many feared that the end zone dance would end with a bullet to the head.
During the prosecution portion of the trial, public opinion began to turn against Juice. There were times that even I found myself saying “Say it ain’t so!” However, after the defense presented its case, I found myself with a reasonable doubt. It did not fit. Therefore acquit. We all remember the split screen showing Whites bewildered while Blacks cheered the verdict. Over time many Blacks came to believe that Juice had actually committed the crime of murder. I have never come to that conclusion. Nevertheless, when Juice was sentenced to nine to thirty years in prison for an alleged robbery in a hotel room in Las Vegas, many believed that his sentence was linked more to public sentiment over the Brown and Goldman murders more than to the alleged robbery in Las Vegas. Therefore, when word broke last week that Juice was up for parole, many in the public simple held their collective breath knowing that public opinion was still swayed to believe he committed the murders. The Nevada parole board made it crystal clear that Juice’s parole would be based on their criteria and not on past incidents.
There was no split screen showing Black and White reaction to Juice’s parole. Perhaps we can surmise that such physical signs of emotions have long since been consigned to the heart. Juice could be set free as early as October 1, 2017. If released, this would be in the midst of the football season. I shall be watching to see if they hand it off to Juice coming out of the backfield. Many others will be watching as well. We all have had season tickets for quite some time. I am not about to sell my tickets on e-bay anytime soon.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”