When the media went to watch Bills OTAs for the first time on Tuesday it discovered that running back Senorise Perry was wearing number-32. He's the first Bill to wear the number since October 10th, 1977 when O.J. Simpson took his final snaps as a Bill in Seattle.
It's something that really could have, and maybe should have happened a long time ago. The Buffalo Bills have no duty to honor O.J. Simpson in any way, shape, or form. If Senorise Perry, a running back with eight career carries trying to make it as a special teamer, wants to wear 32, he has that right.
Perry told The Athletic, "I thought it was retired. But then I was told it was available. Boom, I took it."
The decision is representative of both the person who made it and the times we live in. The Bills late owner Ralph Wilson would not allow 32 to be used. He watched OJ. He loved OJ. He wanted to honor memories and honor O.J. Simpson the football player. Sean McDermott, who said that there was a discussion about the decison, didn't watch OJ. McDermott likely isn't conflicted nor does he see it as a big deal.
For what it's worth, Simpson said he's fine with it too.
The more time that passes, the more the memories of Bills running back O.J. Simpson disintegrate. All we're left with is a shell of a once great football player that shamefully waddles about as a free man. Who needs to honor that?
Increasingly in pop culture and politics, the sins of the artist make it impossible to enjoy the art. Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby are recent examples of this.
It's not the same, but my favorite football player growing up was Michael Vick. He was fast, fun, exciting, and unique. As anyone that's played a lot of Madden will know that, with the exception of Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson, Michael Vick in Madden 04 was the most unstoppable video game player ever. The day the news about what he had done to hundreds of dogs broke, me and my dad couldn't stuff my Vick jersey in the trash fast enough.
I've always loved eighties music, especially Michael Jackson. I can't listen to him now without thinking of the documentary "Leaving Neverland" that was released in January.
We cannot separate O.J. the player from O.J. the man, because we're human beings. That's harder to do for some than others. It's easy for me. I never saw O.J. play. As a 23-year old Bills fan, I'm so far removed from his time as a revered superstar running back. I don't even think of him as a Buffalo Bill when his name comes up.
Fans of my generation either weren't alive for, or don't remember the O.J. murder trial. We certainly weren't alive to watch him play. In a way, I'm glad for that. I don't want to feel conflicted on O.J. Simpson. I want a clear head to think of him simply for what he is.
By Joe DiBiase