Colin Kaepernick, the retired NFL quarterback whose political views made him a divisive figure, has been added to Madden NFL 21 as a free agent after being left out of many iterations before due to his standing with the league.
“Knowing that our EA Sports experiences are platforms for players to create, we want to make Madden NFL a place that reflects Colin’s position and talent, rates him as a starting QB, and empowers our fans to express their hopes for the future of football,” EA Sports’ official statement reads. “We’ve worked with Colin to make this possible, and we’re excited to bring it to all of you today.”
After he took over for injured starting quarterback Alex Smith late in the 2012 season, Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl, which the team nearly lost to the Baltimore Ravens. His extraordinary results in the following season led to a six-year contract renewal from the 49ers, but headlines finally began to concentrate more on Kaepernick’s sideline protests than his game.
At the beginning of the 2016 preseason, Kaepernick was found sitting on the bench during the pre-game singing of the United States national anthem—one of many examples of the “paid patriotism” encouraged by millions of dollars from the Department of Defense—instead of standing and saluting. This came during a confluence of political issues, which includes the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests of police killings and a national reckoning of the United States’ complicity in promoting the racist atmosphere that often helps these disasters.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained after one of these games. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
After talking with fellow NFL player and military veteran Nate Boyer about the demonstration, Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid decided to kneel during the anthem. What began as a singular act ultimately became a broad movement that has lasted for many years, both in the NFL and other professional sports. This received negative attention from the typical suspects and even converted a discussion point between the NFL and the NFLPA players union after the league decided to prevent kneeling during the national anthem.
Kaepernick’s trial for publicly protesting injustice has been more insidious. The quarterback separated from the 49ers in the 2017 offseason, likely expecting to be courted as a free agent. But nothing occurred; Kaepernick was passed over for lesser players for the same position. In late 2017, Kaepernick filed a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that team owners had planned to keep him out of the league because of his protesting. And while the league was forced to settle, Kaepernick has yet to even be given an official workout by any of the league’s 32 teams despite many arguably in shortage of a quarterback with his skill and talent.
EA Sports and Madden haven’t been accused of their own Kaepernick against moments—earlier games “mistakenly” censored his name in songs—but the move to accept the quarterback in Madden NFL 21 is huge. This, coupled with a previous decision to cut the racist epithet that was practiced by the professional football team out of Washington D.C. for over 80 years, shows growth is certainly being made.
NFL 21 is currently set to launch on August 28, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.