EA Sports puts Colin Kaepernick back in the, um, virtual game
Colin Kaepernick might not have returned to real football fields yet, but he’s back in virtual ones.
Starting today, the star football quarterback who sparked a national movement, can be chosen as a player in EA Sports’ latest Madden game, Madden NFL 21, released at the end of August. EA Sports states that players can put Kaepernick at the helm of any NFL team in Franchise mode and play with him in the game’s Play Now setting.
“Colin Kaepernick is one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback. The team at EA Sports, along with millions of Madden NFL fans, want to see him back in our game,” EA Sports wrote in a statement on Twitter on its Madden NFL 21 account. The account also tweeted an image of Kaepernick in the game with a simple sentiment: “Welcome back, Kap!”
The inclusion of Kaepernick also plays into EA’s marketing around the new game, which includes highlighting football stars who “leave their mark” on the field. EA Sports has benefited from the coronavirus pandemic like many other video game makers, but is still facing an uncertain future if the pandemic stops the season short.
Since the company negotiates through the NFL Players Association, Kaepernick hasn’t been included in an EA game since 2016, leaving him out of Madden 18, 19 and 20, according to The Undefeated, which first reported the news. EA Sports first reached out to Kaepernick over the summer to negotiate the rights to his likeness so he could return for the new game after losing the rights when he was listed as a free agent. According to the article, Kaepernick’s requests included that his avatar in the game wear an afro and have a signature celebration of a Black Power fist.
Last month marked the fourth anniversary of Kaepernick’s move to take a knee during the national anthem to protest against the oppression of Black people and people of color in the U.S. and police brutality, which led to the creation of his nonprofit Know Your Rights Camp.
After NFL players made their own Black Lives Matter film in June, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was “wrong” in how it handled responding to players’ protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
Even though Kaepernick remains unsigned today and initially lost his sponsors, a number of other brands have latched onto the athlete and everything he stands for. The quarterback became the star of Nike’s award-winning “Dream Crazy” campaign and has partnered with both Disney and Netflix for docuseries, the latter focusing on his early life, produced by Ava DuVernay.