What We Know About O.J. Simpson's Relationship With His 5 Children

From his career as an athlete, to being the prime suspect in Nicole Brown Simpson's murder, O.J. Simpson's life was defied by fame, both good and bad. But the one thing that rarely took the spotlight was his relationship with his kids.

O.J. was a father of five and welcomed his first three children with first wife Marguerite L. Whitley. Between 1968 and 1977, the couple welcomed two daughters and a son into their lives: Arnelle, Jason, and Aaren. Unfortunately, the couple suffered an immense tragedy when they lost their daughter, Aaren, in a swimming pool accident in 1979, nearly two years after she was born. The same year Aaren died, the couple called it quits. It wouldn't be until several years later that O.J. would tie the knot with Nicole in 1985. While their relationship is now tied to the infamous murder case, the couple did have two children, Sydney Brooke and Justin Ryan.

All of the former football player's children were by his side when O.J. died from cancer. His family shared, "On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren." But that doesn't mean his relationships with his five kids didn't have their ups and downs.

Nicole Brown's kids loved their dad

When O.J. Simpson became the prime suspect in Nicole Brown Simpson's murder, many wondered whether his relationship with his kids, specifically Sydney and Justin, would shift. Sydney and Justin were Nicole and O.J.'s only biological kids, and during his trial, Nicole's parents retained custody. Once he was acquitted, O.J. gained access to his kids, but the issue of custody continued as the Brown family fought to keep O.J. away.

O.J. was unhappy with having to convince the legal system that his kids were okay in his care. According to CBS News, O.J. said, "The bottom line is there are people out there who think their opinion of me is going to supersede the well-being of my kids. And my only interest is the well-being of my kids." Justin and Sydney even wrote emotional letters to convince the judge they'd be better off staying with their father. Years later, Nicole's family and O.J. developed a better relationship, and ultimately, the football star regained custody of his kids.

As they grew up, Justin and Sydney chose to lead more private lives, even though people are likely curious about what they are doing now. While their relationship with their father may be complex, their aunt, Tanya Brown, told Radar Online in 2019 that they will always have a special place in their heart for their dad. She said, "They will always love their dad. I choose to respect that."

O.J. Simpson tried to protect his kids from the spotlight

O.J. Simpson was under the spotlight for years, but he didn't want the same for his kids. The former football player tried to keep his kids out of the media to protect them.

O.J. spoke publicly about the infamous Nicole Brown Simpson case in the Fox special, "OJ: The Lost Confession," but refused to talk about his kids. In a clip from 2006, when asked about Justin and Sydney being in the house the night of Nicole's murder, O.J. quickly stopped the conversation. "Now we got to stop. It's hard enough for me without bringing my kids into this. I'm sorry, I tend to keep my kids out of everything as you may notice," he said, according to the Daily Mail.

O.J. kept this mindset while in prison when trying to get an early release. In 2013, he told the parole board why his children hadn't shown up to support him. "Understand that I have worked diligently to keep my kids out of the media over the years to the point today where most people wouldn't recognize my kids other than my oldest daughter," O.J. said, according to Us Weekly. "And even though they all wanted to come here, I was told a lot of media was going to be around, so I asked them to write a letter." Arnelle Simpson ended up writing a letter on behalf of her and her three siblings, but she would go on to do so much more.

O.J. Simpson's relationship with Arnelle has been complex

Of O.J. Simpson's kids, Arnelle Simpson has spent the most time in the spotlight. Arnelle had a rocky relationship with her father, which came to light while he was in prison.

In 2008, O.J. was sentenced to 33 years in prison for kidnapping, armed robbery, and assault. During his time behind bars, he trusted Arnelle to handle certain finances for his home in Florida, but it seems she didn't do as good of a job as he'd hoped. According to the National Enquirer, O.J. had a heated call with his daughter after discovering she hadn't paid the mortgage for two years, meaning it was about to be foreclosed. A source told the outlet, "O.J. was forced to sign paperwork to fight the foreclosure. He couldn't get over it." Arnelle was unbothered by her father's anger, thinking he would be behind bars for years. However, she would ultimately play a role in his parole hearing.

When O.J. was eligible for parole, Arnelle pleaded with the board for his release. Putting aside all their past beef, Arnelle told the board, "He's like my best friend and my rock. And as a family, we recognize he's not the perfect man," she continued, "But he's clearly a man and a father who's done his best to behave in a way that speaks to his overall nature and character, which is always to be positive no matter what," according to KPIX.

Were O.J. and his kids estranged?

Tom Scotto was one of O.J. Simpson's good friends, whom he had known for two decades. Scotto was close with the former football star and considered him family so, of course, when he released a book, "Killing Time," along with co-author Allison Kugel, he had to talk about O.J. Scotto reportedly detailed the complex relationship the former NFL star had with his kids. Scotto claimed O.J. and kids James, Sydney, and Justin were estranged. Scotto's publicist confirmed this to Page Six, sharing, "O.J.'s kids don't want him close to them. Only Arnelle will talk to him." Seeing as Arnelle Simpson is the only one of O.J.'s kids who's publicly defend him, it didn't seem like a stretch to the public to consider the possibility that maybe the football star wasn't as close with his kids as it might've seemed. However, O.J.'s lawyer, Malcolm Lavergne, denied the estrangement rumors.

Lavergne told Page Six, "They are in constant communication. There is only one person authorized to speak for Mr. Simpson, and that is me." Scotto seemed to backtrack the details of O.J.'s estrangement from his kids because he later spoke with the media and revealed all was well with the former football star and his children.

Justin Simpson moved closer to O.J. Simpson in his time of need

O.J. Simpson had been living a more quiet life since being released from prison in 2017, but in February 2024, news broke that the former NFL player had been diagnosed with cancer. Sources told Local 10 News that O.J. was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy treatment. However, that same day, the celebrity posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, denying the speculation that he was dealing with health issues, specifically the rumor that he was in hospice. O.J. said, "Hospice? No, I'm not in any hospice...all is well." Nearly two months after sharing his health update on social media, however, O.J. died. His family confirmed that his death was the result of his cancer diagnosis. 

People were shocked to see O.J. pass so suddenly, as details have been scarce, but his son, Justin Simpson, was said to have taken care of his father while he faced his health issues. A source told Radar Online that Justin moved his life from Florida to Las Vegas, where his father resided, to be near him as he struggled with health issues. Not only did he make the big move, but Justin reportedly left the real estate business he built behind to be with his dad. Justin hasn't been in the public eye too much, but he clearly cared and loved O.J. up until his death.