Over 5.1 million viewers were reminded of the grisly details from the trial of the century Tuesday night with FX’s premiere of “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
And as a growing number of NFL stars are posthumously diagnosed with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the doctor who inspired the Will Smith movie “Concussion” now believes that O.J. Simpson suffers from the degenerative brain disease.
“I went through the O.J. saga, his story, and his irrationality, his impulsivity, his disinhibition, by disinhibition meaning you’re beginning to lose your learned behavior, his sexual improprieties, his violent tendencies, domestic violence history — in fact, almost bordering on irrationality, irrational behaviors,” Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was portrayed by Smith in the drama written and directed by Peter Landesman, told the Los Angeles Times.
“Even after he was acquitted in the murder trial, he still went on — you know, he’s in jail today because of some stupidity,” Omalu said. “After 2002, I’ve always suspected that O.J. Simpson is a victim of this disease. He’s a victim too.”
Simpson, a star NFL running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in 1994. He was acquitted of all criminal charges in 1995, but was later found civilly liable for both deaths.
His subsequent act of “stupidity,” as Omalu put it, came in 2007, when the Heisman Trophy winner was arrested on armed robbery and kidnapping charges stemming from an incident in Las Vegas in which he and several other men accosted a sports memorabilia dealer whom Simpson claimed stole several of his personal belongings. In 2008, Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison, with parole eligibility after nine years.
Since the disturbing condition of CTE has caught the public’s attention, there have been more and more reported cases of the disease caused by repeated head trauma.
On Wednesday, a Boston University study showed that NFL quarterback Ken Stabler had high Stage 3 CTE. Nicknamed “The Snake,” Stabler played most of his pro career with the Oakland Raiders, where he won Super Bowl XI and was a four-time Pro Bowler. Stabler died in July 2015 from colon cancer. He was 69.
Last week, tests showed that former New York Giants safety Tyler Sash had advanced CTE when he died last September at age 27. The disease, which can be confirmed only posthumously, had advanced to a stage rarely seen in someone his age and led to erratic behavior culminating in a fatal overdose.
In November, pathological tests proved that New York Giants great Frank Gifford — who died earlier in 2015 at age 84 — had suffered from CTE as well.
In his interview with the L.A. Times, Omalu also addressed Donald Trump’s recent complaints that there weren’t enough tackles in football anymore because of NFL rule changes. “Football has become soft like our country has become soft,” the GOP candidate said.
“I want to find out if Donald Trump’s children played football. I bet you that his sons did not,” Omalu said in response.
“Many doctors I have met, many professionals, I ask, does your child play football? ‘Oh no, my child doesn’t play football,'” he continued. “So people like Donald Trump will brag, because it is not his children.”
Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers will be played Sunday, Feb. 7, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. It airs live on CBS from 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 ET.
While millions of viewers are glued to the big game, Omalu said, “I’ll spend that [day] with my family. We’ll cook some Kenyan cuisine and have some quality family time.”