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Saturday Sports: O.J. Simpson's legacy, Shohei Ohtani's interpreter, The Masters

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: O.J. Simpson dies, Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter charged and the Masters tees off. Michele Steele of ESPN joins us. Michele, thanks for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: Yes, Scott. Good morning.

SIMON: O.J. Simpson died Thursday. He was 76. Of course, he was found not guilty for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, his former wife, and Ronald Goldman nearly 30 years ago. But a jury in a civil trial did find him responsible for their deaths. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million - never did. He later served nine years in prison for armed robbery to recover some memorabilia from his sports career. Michele, this is a life that makes us reflect on celebrity culture and American justice and a whole lot, doesn't it?

STEELE: Oh, yeah. You know, I was thinking about that this week when I heard the news. A hundred fifty million people - and that was more than half the U.S. population at that time - watched this verdict live. And it captivated so many, not just because this was an absolutely stunning fall from grace for a college football star and an NFL star, but because it brought so many issues to the fore on celebrity, on wealth, on the justice system.

And how people viewed the verdict in that trial exposed really deep divides on how different races experience the criminal justice and the legal system. And the interesting thing for me is the vehicle for all this was O.J. He wasn't, like, Muhammad Ali fighting for civil rights, right? I mean, he portrayed himself as racially sort of neutral. He famously said, I'm not Black, I'm O.J. And, Scott, in the end, he was able to die with his children and his grandchildren around him, which is more than you can say for Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

SIMON: Yeah. I want to ask you about, in a sense, Nicole Brown Simpson's legacy. Her killing forced the issue of domestic violence into a national spotlight. I mean, as it was reported during the trial, she called the police any number of times while being beaten by O.J. Simpson prior to the night of her murder. They came and obviously did nothing. What do you see as her legacy?

STEELE: I'm glad that you bring that up because her experience led to a real sea change, a real one, in public opinion on domestic violence. You know, in the early '90s, California treated that kind of abuse sort of as a private matter, you know, a nuisance crime. And he had a very unusually friendly relationship with local police, which made it much more difficult to hold him accountable. But because public opinion changed so dramatically after this trial, California made several notable changes to the law, including adding much-needed protections, additional protections for victims of domestic violence, Scott.

SIMON: Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter surrendered to federal authorities yesterday - he's now out on bond - says he stole $16 million from Shohei Ohtani. What more do we know? What do we want to know?

STEELE: Boy, was this breathtaking to read the charging documents here. His translator, Shohei Ohtani's translator, Mizuhara, he made 19,000 bets between December of 2021 - that wasn't that long ago - and this January.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: And he won $142 million. He lost $183 million. Now, according to the prosecutors, he did not gamble on baseball. And they characterize Ohtani very much as the victim in this crime. He surrendered to the authorities yesterday. And Mizuhara's lawyer, you know, says he's hoping to hammer out some kind of agreement with the government to resolve the case. And Ohtani, he says he just wants to move on. And Dodgers host the Padres tonight.

SIMON: The Masters halfway through. Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott - big names, but already out. Tiger woods made the cut, though, for a record 24th consecutive time. Who do you see as the favorites going into the final round tomorrow?

STEELE: Yeah, well, going into moving day - right? - Day 3 of the tournament, we've got Max Homa, Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau holding a three-way tie, but boy am I going to be watching Tiger Woods. You're right, he made his 24th straight cut at the Masters. He's got the all-time record - unreal considering his mobility issues. So going to be watching him today.

SIMON: Michele Steele of ESPN. We will talk to you soon. Thank you so much for being with us.

STEELE: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZAKORI'S "GIFTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.