In a new interview with Buffalo News, O.J. Simpson condemned Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, saying that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback "made a bad choice in attacking the flag." It's the first full interview Simpson has given since being released from prison in October, where he was serving nine years for kidnapping and armed robbery.
"I grew up at a time when deacons were in the KKK," Simpson told the newspaper. "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."
Kaepernick drew both praise and criticism when he refused to stand during the national anthem at preseason football games in 2016. He explained at the time that he was "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
"To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," Kaepernick told NFL Media at the time. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Simpson expressed some sympathy for the point Kaepernick was making, but called it a "mistake" not to stand up for the flag multiple times.
"When he did it the first time," Simpson said, "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."
Although he told the Buffalo News that he only wanted to take questions on his football career, Simpson nevertheless touched on a wide range of topics in the interview, including not only his football career but prison life and U.S. politics. Only fleetingly did he address his double murder trial in the 1990s, which he referred to obliquely as "the crap," "that L.A. crap" and "the L.A. thing."
"I get so many offers [for interviews]," Simpson told Buffalo News, "but everybody wants to talk about the crap."
In 1995, after a protracted murder trial that filled airwaves and headlines for the better part of a year, Simpson was acquitted of killing his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman at Brown's home in Los Angeles.
For a number of reasons, the Simpson murder trial gained new pop culture relevance in recent years. In 2016, ESPN released O.J.: Made in America, an acclaimed multi-part series about Simpson's life that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. That same year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred as Simpson in The People v. O.J. Simpson, a dramatization of the trial that aired on FX. Then in 2017, Simpson was released from prison after serving almost a decade on kidnapping and armed robbery charges unrelated to the murders of Brown and Goldman.
Most recently, Fox aired a previously unseen 2006 interview with Simpson in which he discusses the night Brown and Goldman were killed. Speaking in what he said were "purely hypothetical" terms, Simpson described in detail what hypothetically might have happened at Brown's house the night of her and Goldman's murders, and what it hypothetically would have been like to kill them.
"As things got heated, I just remember Nicole fell and hurt herself," Simpson said in the interview. "I remember I grabbed the knife — I do remember that portion, taking the knife from Charlie — and to be honest? After that, I don't remember. Except I'm standing there and there's all kind of stuff around." Simpson then clarified that by "stuff," he meant "blood."
In the Buffalo News interview, Simpson said he didn't watch the 2006 interview when it aired on Sunday, and implicitly criticized Fox for broadcasting it.
"When people want to make money or get ratings," Simpson said, "they're going to pimp me. I'm going to get pimped."