Colin Kaepernick may not be part of the current NFL, but today the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback returns to the Madden NFL series. Publisher Electronic Arts has announced that Kaepernick will be available to play in later today Madden NFL 21‘s Franchise and Play Now modes, where he can take charge of any team in the league.
Kaepernick last appeared in Madden NFL 17which came out shortly after he famously knelt in protest while playing the national anthem for a 2016 preseason game. When Kaepernick became a free agent the following season, he was no longer part of EA’s collective licensing agreement with the NFL. Players Association had closed and thus did not appear in the subsequent Madden NFL titles.
This year, however, The Undefeated reports that EA has contacted Kaepernick directly to negotiate individual rights to his likeness in Madden NFL 21† Kaepernick was reportedly “hands-on” in the negotiations, insisting that his in-game avatar wear an Afro and raise a “Black Power” fist as his in-game celebration.
Kaepernick reportedly has an overall rating of 81/100 in the game, a figure “determined by data-driven simulations that took into account his ongoing free agency,” as The Undefeated puts it. That puts Kaepernick in the top 15 of the 111 quarterbacks in the game. Players can edit Kaepernick’s stats in franchise mode.
“Colin Kaepernick is one of the best free agents in football and a starting quarterback,” EA writes. “The EA Sports team, along with millions Madden NFL fans, want to see him back in our game.”
“Knowing that our EA Sports experiences are platforms that players can create is what we want to make Madden NFL a place that reflects Colin’s position and talent, assesses him as a starting QB and allows our fans to express their hopes for the future of football,” the statement continued. “We have worked with Colin to make this possible to make, and we’re excited to bring it to you all today.”
A unique one-off
Kaepernick’s individual deal for inclusion in Madden NFL is relatively unprecedented in the history of sports video games for an unsigned free agent. When inactive players are included in a sports simulation’s lineup, it is usually as part of a limited lineup of retired veterans available as part of an “all-time greats” package (or a player-created roster). with similar).
Active players can occasionally make individual license agreements for their video game likenesses, separate from their player associations – 16-bit “classics” such as Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City and Shaq Fu are the result of such deals. But an individual license agreement for a free agent is generally unheard of in the world of sports games.
Kaepernick has maintained a high profile during his free agency and has filed a lawsuit against NFL team owners for allegedly colluding to prevent him from making a living from the league (that lawsuit ended in a settlement last year). In June, however, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly encouraged any NFL team to hire Kaepernick if it so desired, seemingly ensuring that Kaepernick’s inclusion in Madden NFL wouldn’t jeopardize EA’s now non-exclusive license with the league.
In 2018, EA had to apologize after Kaepernick’s name was censored from the in-game versions of two rap songs in the Madden NFL 19 soundtrack. “We messed up and the edit should never have happened,” EA said at the time before patching up the lyrics in an update. “We have had a long relationship with Colin through Madden NFL and have worked through our mistakes in the soundtrack from the past,” the company said in a statement today.
List image by EA