In this age of so many shameless efforts to make something or somebody appear more important than they really are, the Smithsonian Institution has reminded us that common sense and decency can still prevail.
The clothes O.J. Simpson was wearing when he was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife and her friend have been rejected as inappropriate for display at the Smithsonian, the nation’s repository of historical artifacts. The outfit included the former football star’s suit, tie and shirt. Announcement of the museum’s refusal to accept the clothing came after a judge in California approved such a donation as the solution to a 13-year court battle over who owned the items. What was the judge thinking?
The ensemble has been held by the Simpson family’s former sports agent, Mike Gilbert, who was instrumental in offering the items to the Smithsonian. Fred Goldman, father of the man Simpson is accused of killing, had been fighting Gilbert for the suit, which Simpson says was stolen from him. The suit was indirectly responsible for O.J.’s current status: imprisonment in Nevada for a bungled effort to reclaim items of his memorabilia from a Las Vegas hotel room.
Gilbert says that, whether we like it or not, the clothing is “a part of American history.” The Smithsonian said “not really,” and refused to take it. Goldman’s activity in the case can be questioned, but he says he wants the clothing so it can be sold to help pay reparations that a civil judgment said O.J. should provide, but has not so far. But at least Goldman has his family finances in mind, while Gilbert was aiming for some kind of museum immortality.
What possible reason could there be to have the “decision suit” of O.J. Simpson shown in one of America’s most important museums? The Smithsonian considers that as unacceptable, as do most citizens, and should be congratulated for its denial at a time when the silliest and sometimes even most ghastly artifacts are grabbed up to be displayed for alleged fun and profit.