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O.J. Simpson and the Kardashians

O.J. Simpson and the Kardashians

There was no mention of O.J. Simpson on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram page on Thursday.

Early that morning, she posted a video promoting a hoodie and bike shorts from Skims, the clothing company she co-founded. Later in the day, after the Simpson family announced that Mr. Simpson had died of cancer at age 76, Ms. Kardashian was silent on social media.

Over the decades, her family had distanced itself from the man who played a significant role in propping up the Kardashian name.

Kim’s father, Robert Kardashian, met Mr. Simpson through their ties to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Mr. Kardashian earned a business degree there in 1966, and Mr. Simpson was a star running back for the school in 1967 and 1968.

The two became close in the 1970s, when Mr. Simpson was a standout in the National Football League and Mr. Kardashian was a rising lawyer and entrepreneur in Los Angeles. His businesses included entertainment properties and a frozen yogurt company.

When Mr. Kardashian married the former Kris Houghton (now Kris Jenner) in 1978, Mr. Simpson served as his best man. The couple had four children — Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and Robert Jr. The marriage ended in divorce in 1991. That same year, Ms. Jenner married the former Olympian who now goes by Caitlyn Jenner.

Mr. Simpson met Nicole Brown in 1977, when he was still married to his first wife. During a separation from his wife, he lived for a time with Mr. Kardashian at his home, Mr. Simpson wrote in his 2007 book, “If I Did It.”

Mr. Simpson and Ms. Brown married in 1985 and divorced in 1992. Mr. Kardashian remained friends with Mr. Simpson throughout those years, and his wife became close with Ms. Brown Simpson.

In 1994, Mr. Kardashian signed on as a member of the so-called dream team that defended Mr. Simpson when he was charged with murdering his former wife and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Mr. Kardashian’s continued support of Mr. Simpson was a source of strain in the family, Kim Kardashian said in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone. She sided with her father, she said, while her mother believed that Mr. Simpson was guilty.

Mr. Kardashian was with Mr. Simpson when the police questioned him at his Los Angeles home on the day after Ms. Brown Simpson was found dead in front of her house after having been stabbed multiple times.

As the police moved toward charging Mr. Simpson in the double homicide, the lawyer Robert Shapiro was hired to lead his defense. The team also came to include the lawyer Johnnie Cochran.

Mr. Shapiro added Mr. Kardashian as counsel, though he would have nothing to do with legal strategy, according to Jeffrey Toobin, whose coverage of the trial for The New Yorker yielded a book, “The Run Of His Life, The People v. O.J. Simpson.”

“Kardashian had absolutely no legal function,” Mr. Toobin said in a phone interview on Thursday. “He was there only to coddle O.J.”

He continued: “Bob Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran had actual jobs to do. They didn’t have the time to take care of O.J.’s clothes and his phone privileges in jail. All that fell to Kardashian.”

Even before the charges were filed, Mr. Kardashian seemed to jump into the role with gusto. With camera crews outside Mr. Simpson’s house, a hide-out was needed. He got one at Mr. Kardashian’s home on Bundy Drive in the Brentwoodneighborhood of Los Angeles.

After the charges were filed, Mr. Simpson fled Mr. Kardashian’s house in a Ford Bronco, with his friend and former teammate Al Cowlings. Mr. Simpson reportedly held a gun to his head and was threatening to kill himself as he led police on a surreal, nationally televised slow-speed car chase.

As it transpired, Mr. Kardashian gave a news conference in which he read from a letter Mr. Simpson had left behind. It sounded like a suicide note. According to Mr. Toobin, Mr. Kardashian “made it sound far more grammatical than it actually was.” During the lengthy trial, Mr. Kardashian was at the defense table daily, despite his limited role.

His ex-wife gave birth to a daughter, Kendall Jenner, on Nov. 3, 1995, a month Mr. Simpson’s acquittal. In tribute to her friend, Kris Jenner gave the baby the middle name Nicole.

Mr. Kardashian was a source for the 1996 book “American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense” by Lawrence Schiller and James Willwerth. Because of his cooperation with the authors, Mr. Kardashian and Mr. Simpson reportedly stopped speaking to each another.

In a 1996 interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News, Mr. Kardashian stated that he had come to question Mr. Simpson’s innocence. “I have doubts,” he said. “The blood evidence is the biggest thorn in my side; that causes me the greatest problems. So I struggle with the blood evidence.”

“I never admired that,” Mr. Toobin said. “Either you’re his lawyer or not. It’s not your job to speculate publicly about whether or not he is guilty. But I think Bob understood that in his West L.A. world, O.J. was considered by basically everyone to be guilty, and he didn’t want to be out of step with that consensus.”

Mr. Kardashian died at 59 in 2003 of cancer. His ties to Mr. Simpson were a focus of his Associated Press obituary.

Caitlyn Jenner, who was a regular on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the E! series that made the Kardashians stars, was the only member of the clan who weighed in on social media concerning Mr. Simpson.

“Good Riddance #OJSimpson,” she wrote on the X platform.

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