In order to understand why EA Sports would delete Colin Kaepernick’s name from one of its most successful games, Madden NFL 19, you have to understand a fundamental truth:
EA Sports is the NFL’s bitch.
It started in 2004 when EA Sports was heavily challenged by the new kid on the block: ESPN 2K5. Not only did ESPN 2k5 have better gameplay than its Madden counterpart, but in an attempt to sway loyal Madden players over to their side, ESPN only charged $19.95 for their game. EA Sports freaked and immediately dropped the price of its game from $49.95 to $29.95 in an attempt to compete.
Then EA did something that would’ve made Stringer Bell proud. Instead of trying to compete with ESPN for gaming superiority, it went directly to the NFL and signed an exclusive licensing agreement that gave EA Sports the rights to use official NFL teams, players and stadiums. In doing so, it sacked any chances for other video games to compete (a video game based on the NFL has no chance if it can’t use the names of actual NFL players).
This also gave the NFL a lot of power over EA Sports. The NFL could officially look over EA Sports like a body at a slave auction (or the NFL combine) and tell them when to jump; the only thing EA Sports could ask is, “How high”?
In 2014, Sports Illustrated noted all of the changes that the NFL made to the Madden franchise, including the elimination of all things concussion-related as well as the removal of the popular “hit stick” function, which allowed users to punish opponents. None of this was accidental. At that time, the NFL’s reputation was suffering from investigative reports and even a movie starring Will Smith that connected the longterm effects of playing football with cognitive damage, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which has been found in several former football players.
Remember the golden days of Madden when the ambulance used to drive onto the field? Yeah, the NFL stopped that too. Imagine trying to fend off scientists arguing that repeated hits to the heads can cause CTE while video games included paramedics rushing players off the field? In short, it wasn’t a good look.
Which brings us to the most recent events. YG’s song, “Big Bank,” is featured on the soundtrack for Madden NFL 19. The song also features rapper Big Sean, who shouted out Colin Kaepernick on his verse in the unedited version. After users received advance copies of the game, which doesn’t hit stores until Aug. 10, they began to notice that Kaepernick’s name had been deleted from the song. The news made the rounds on social media; even Big Sean weighed in, noting that he was disappointed and appalled at the change:
EA Sports then started damage control, claiming it was all a mistake.
“We made an unfortunate mistake with our Madden NFL soundtrack,” EA said in a statement issued Thursday evening, adding,
Members of our team misunderstood the fact that while we don’t have rights to include Colin Kaepernick in the game, this doesn’t affect soundtracks. We messed up, and the edit should never have happened. We will make it right, with an update to Madden NFL 19 on August 6 that will include the reference again. We meant no disrespect, and we apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake.
That all sounded good, except a Twitter user found that this wasn’t the first time that EA Sports had made this “mistake” as Kaepernick’s name was also deleted from Mike WiLL Made-It’s “Bars of Soap” in the August 2017 release.
Something isn’t adding up.
Is it shocking that EA Sports ran out here and took the bullet for taking Kaepernick’s name out of the game as if it was a curse word? Of course not. That’s because it is a curse word to the NFL!
Kaepernick’s attempt to raise awareness about police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem made him the NFL’s fall guy for its low ratings, fan disinterest and bad press from Donald Trump
Kaepernick is currently suing the NFL, claiming that the owners colluded to whiteball him out of the league, and if the NFL had anything to do with Kaepernick’s name being deleted from songs on Madden, then they may have just bolstered his case.
Here’s how ProFootballTalk breaks it down:
The fact that Kaepernick’s name was removed from the game a year ago, while he was still actively seeking NFL employment and hadn’t filed a collusion grievance against the NFL, could actually strengthen his legal claim. The NFL exclusively licenses EA to produce and market a video game with league and team logos and trademarks. It’s an official piece of NFL merchandise. The fact that the game omitted his name even before the anthem issue became a next-level news story in September 2017 with the President’s comments at a rally in Alabama and, a month later, Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance tends to show that the league had a clear bias against him.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. But it wouldn’t be shocking if EA deleted the curse of Kaepernick’s name to appease its master.