EA Sports has announced an addition to the Madden 21 player roster, which is sure to put the cat (or Kap’) among the proverbial pigeons.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and prominent racial justice activist Colin Kaepernick returns to the officially-licensed game for the first time in four years. He goes in as the game’s top-ranked free agent player with an overall rating of 81.
The last time Kaepernick was a playable character within the game was during the 2016 NFL season when he was an active member of the 49ers in real life.
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Since then Kaepernick has been effectively (if not officially) blackballed by NFL teams for his vocal stance on police brutality, which involved kneeling for pre-game rendition of the national anthem. He still hopes to return to action as an active player, but has struggled to find a team willing to upset elements of its fanbase by bringing the divisive figure on board.
Given pro athletes around the world are now mirroring Kaepernick’s stance by kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, even initial critics are beginning to look at ‘Kap’ through a different lens. The protests are now widely supported by organisations like the NBA and NFL, but four years ago it cost Kaepernick his career.
As recently as 2018, EA Sports apologised for censoring Kaepernick’s name in the Madden 19 soundtrack. However, in a statement announcing his return, the company said the parties had worked through their issues. EA Sports wrote:
“Colin Kaepernick is one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback,” the release read. “The team at EA Sports, along with millions of Madden NFL fans, want to see him back in our game. We’ve had a long relationship with Colin through Madden NFL and worked through our past soundtrack mistakes.
“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. We’ve worked with Colin to make this possible, and we’re excited to bring it to all of you today.
“Starting today in Madden NFL 21, fans can put Colin Kaepernick at the helm of any NFL team in Franchise mode, as well as play with him in Play Now. We look forward to seeing Colin on Madden NFL teams everywhere.”
Madden 21 has suffered a critical panning since its release on August 25 and is perhaps the least well-received game in the illustrious history of the franchise. The game’s metacritic user score currently sits at 0.2 out of a possible 100 points, but we assume there’s been some serious bandwagon jumping here too.
Call us cynics, but EA Sports bringing Kap back to Madden 21 is certainly a way to switch the narrative away from the game’s perceived shortcomings. It might even boost sales, seeing as the player still has an incredibly loyal following, despite his absence from the league.