Surprise! EA Sports added Colin Kaepernick to Madden NFL 21 video game
Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback whose political activism made him a divisive figure, was added to Madden NFL 21 today as a free agent after being dropped from several previous iterations due to his status in the league.
It can be read in the official EA Sports statement: Knowing that our EA Sports experiences are platforms for players to believe in, we want to make Madden NFL a place that reflects Colin’s position and talent, qualifies him as a quarterback initial and allow our fans to express their hopes for the future of soccer. We have worked with Colin to make this possible, and we are excited to bring him to all of you today.
After replacing injured quarterback Alex Smith at the end of the 2012 season, Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, which the team narrowly lost to the Baltimore Ravens. His impressive results the following season led to a six-year contract extension from the 49ers, but the starters eventually began to focus more on Kaepernick’s side protests than his game.
Beginning in preseason 2016, Kaepernick was often seen sitting on the bench during the pregame chant of the United States national anthem, one of several examples of “paid patriotism” encouraged by millions of dollars from the Department of Defense, instead of standing and waving. This came during a confluence of political events, including Black Lives Matter’s ongoing protests of police shootings and a national recognition of America’s complicity in fostering the racist atmosphere that often facilitates these tragedies.
Colin Kaepernick’s stance
Kaepernick explained after one of these games: I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag of a country that oppresses blacks and people of color. For me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish of me to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people who receive paid licenses and get away with it.
After speaking with fellow NFL player and military veteran Nate Boyer about the protest, Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid decided to kneel during the anthem. What started out as a singular act eventually grew into a widespread movement that has lasted for years, both in the NFL and in professional sports. This gained negative attention from the usual suspects and even became a point of contention between the NFL and the NFLPA players’ union after the league tried to avoid kneeling during the anthem.
As is often the case, Kaepernick’s punishment for publicly protesting injustice has been more insidious. The quarterback parted ways with the 49ers in the 2017 offseason, likely waiting to be courted as a free agent. But nothing happened; Kaepernick routinely switched to junior players for the same position. In late 2017, Kaepernick filed a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that the team owners had colluded to keep him out of the league because of his protests. And while the league was eventually forced to settle down, Kaepernick has yet to receive official training from any of the league’s 32 teams despite the fact that several may need a quarterback with his experience and talent.
EA Sports and Madden have not been spared their own Kaepernick escape moments (previous games “mistakenly” censored his name in songs), but the decision to recognize the quarterback in Madden NFL 21 is an important one. This, combined with an earlier decision to remove the racist epithet that was used by the Washington D.C. professional soccer team. For more than 80 years, it shows that progress is finally being made. If only the world didn’t move so slowly.