The OJ Simpson Fried Chicken Commercial You Forgot Existed

O.J. Simpson was a man who wore many hats. However, some were not exemplary. The controversial pop culture legend, who died of prostate cancer on April 10, 2024, was well known as a professional football player, actor, and all-around media sensation. In 1994, media attention on Simpson shifted when he was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman. The subsequent televised police chase and publicized trial shook the nation. In 2007, Simpson, who was acquitted of the crime, wrote a book titled, "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer," detailing how he would have committed the crimes.

Long before his public image was turned upside down, Simpson appeared in several family-friendly endorsements throughout the 1970s and '80s. Still, you not may remember the 1985 commercial in which Simpson encouraged viewers to "make new friends" over Pioneer Chicken's Summer Fun Special — eight pieces of crispy fried chicken, megamenu potatoes with gravy, and coleslaw.

In the ad, he appeared as the ultimate cheery guy, talking about the joys of relaxing in the summer with friends, the affordable chicken combo, and free promotional coupons for Universal Studios tours. The retro promotion is a stark contrast to his eventual reputation, but it's an interesting reminder of the marketable celebrity athlete who once had successful ties to the food industry.

What happened to Pioneer Chicken

O.J. Simpson's son, Jason, became a chef, and the former football star owned a few restaurants under O.J. Simpson Enterprises, so he was no stranger to the culinary world. As the CEO of that corporation, he had holdings in food brands, including Honey Baked Ham and the California fried chicken chain, Pioneer Chicken.

This West Coast restaurant company was founded by Rick Kaufman in 1961, and it was most popular for its soul food, signature Orange Whip drink, and appearances in such pop culture moments as the "Full House" intro. Endorsements with celebrity athletes such as Muhammed Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and of course, Simpson also helped established the brand's popularity. The once-popular chicken chain disappeared after filing for bankruptcy in 1991, but it has recently started to make a comeback.

The current menu still features a family meal reminiscent of the Summer Fun Special that Simpson touted in the commercial, and despite his controversy, it makes sense why his public persona once fit the family-friendly bill. After all, Simpson was — for a time — considered one of the first Black athletes to achieve such a universally positive celebrity image. However, judging by Simpson's exclusion from the company's history on its website, the commercial will likely go down as one of the most infamous moments for Pioneer Chicken.