O.J. Simpson Featured During 2024 BET Awards 'In Memoriam' Segment

The controversial figure died on April 10, and was featured in the 'In Memoriam' segment at the 2024 BET Awards on Sunday night.

Sunday night's 2024 BET Awards included a solemn "In Memoriam" segment that featured controversial public figure O.J. Simpson. The former NFL star died on April 10 at age 76 following a battle with cancer and his inclusion reportedly came as an unwelcome surprise to some in attendance.

Tia Mowry introduced the segment as a tribute to "the Black excellence that we unfortunately lost this year."

"It's never easy to say goodbye to those who influence us," Mowry added, "but we can take a moment to celebrate and acknowledge their contributions to the culture."

The segment paid tribute to late public figures like Carl Weathers, Richard Roundtree, Ron Cephas Jones, Louis Gossett Jr., civil rights activist Dexter Scott King and baseball player Willie Mays. 

While the audience applauded as photos were shown during the montage, Simpson's image caused "a noticeable silence" to fall over the crowd, according to The Hollywood Reporter

While there was a "smattering of applause," several people in the audience were visibly "surprised" to see Simpson's image appear onscreen, with "titters" breaking out among the crowd afterward. 

Described as a "Former NFL Player" during the broadcast, Orenthal James Simpson is often regarded as one of the greatest running backs of all time. 

He played 11 seasons with the Buffalo Bills and also played for the San Francisco 49ers. He was a Heisman Trophy winner from his time with the USC Trojans and was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. Simpson also had a credited acting career, appearing in the critically acclaimed TV miniseries Roots, and in films like The Klansman, The Towering Inferno, The Cassandra Crossing, Capricorn One, and in all three of the Naked Gun films, in which he played Detective Nordberg.  

However, he was also known for his legal troubles, most notably his 1994 arrest in connection with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman

The subsequent murder trial is still one of the most widely publicized events in American history. Simpson was represented by the now-famous legal team of Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, F. Lee Bailey and Robert Shapiro. They went up against lead prosecutor Marcia Clark. On Oct. 3, 1995, Simpson was found not guilty of both murders and acquitted of criminal charges

However, he was unanimously found liable for the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman and battery against Brown.

O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown Simpson, Sydney Simpson and Justin Simpson - Ron Davis/Getty Images

In 1997, a civil trial jury ordered Simpson to pay $33.5 million, which, with interest over the past 27 years has ballooned to over $100 million.

Simpson was unmarried at the time of his death and left behind four children who were by his side at the time of his passing.

His family confirmed the news in a statement released on social media. "On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer," the statement reads. "He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren."

The family concluded their statement requesting "privacy and grace."

Fred Goldman, Ron's father, blasted the inclusion of Simpson in BET's segment to TMZ. "I think they shouldn't include anyone of that caliber -- a wife beater, murderer ... Can't imagine why they would include someone like that," he told the outlet. 

He went on to call it a "slap in the face" to his and Brown's families.

Nicole's sister Tanya echoed the sentiment, telling TMZ, "It's inappropriate to give an abuser and murderer recognition. Whoever thought of doing that owes every domestic violence victim an apology...and that's including our family. And, they should be fired."

ET spoke with Nicole's three sisters -- Denise, Dominique and Tanya -- nearly two months after Simpson's death and ahead of the 30th anniversary of Nicole's death, during which the trio shared their thoughts on the former athlete's passing.

"I was sad for the children, but then again, I think it was mixed emotions," Dominque shared. "It's complicated. It's the end of what we're hoping or could be the end of a huge chapter of our lives. It's someone who was in our family for many, many years. I mean, it's been 50 years or something. Almost 50 years because they were together and then 30 years had passed. So, it was complicated. It was confusing. But then again it was very, very sad because now the kids have no parents."

Denise added, "I was really happy. I was happy to hear because we had this kind of relationship, you know, it wasn't a good relationship from the first time I met him. So, when Nicole was happy, I was very happy for her. And that's all that mattered to me, that Nicole was happy. For me, it was probably a little more tense with the kids because I went out and spoke about domestic violence and I spoke about their dad. I felt I had to do it. I had to do it for her. I had to do it for all the other Nicole's that are out there."

The 2024 BET Awards, hosted by Taraji P. Henson, aired live on the BET channel from the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, June 30, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Check out the complete winners list here.