The NFL Won’t Even Let Colin Kaepernick Play In A Video Game

Madden NFL 19 won’t be released until August 10 but is already making headlines. Advance copies of the forthcoming EA Sports NFL game were released to criticism relating to its soundtrack (or, rather, something missing from the soundtrack). The game has developed a reputation for pairing its technology with music featuring hits from Rap and other genres and this year opted to include YG’s “Big Bank.” In the song, Big Sean raps a verse containing the name of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback turned contemporary civil rights icon whose career was sidelined when he began kneeling in protest of racism and police violence in America. However, Kaepernick’s name was “bleeped” out from the game, and EA Sports has now been forced to address the issue.

After clips of the censorship were uploaded to social media, Big Sean took to Twitter to voice his concern. “It’s disappointing and appalling @NFL & @EA took @Kaepernick7’s name out of my verse on ‘Big Bank’ for Madden 19, like it was a curse word,” he said before adding “When he’s not a curse, he’s a gift! Nobody from my team approved any of this.”

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Big Sean inspired a wave of support from those who felt EA Sports’ oversight was egregious. Kaepernick himself thanked Sean for “having my back” and, eventually, EA Sports responded. “Hey Sean, no doubt we messed up here. We look forward to making it right,” they tweeted before posting the following statement:

“We made an unfortunate mistake with our Madden NFL soundtrack,” EA Sports said Thursday night in a statement. “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.”

According to NBC Sports blog Pro Football Talk, it isn’t only the 2018 incarnation of the game which eliminated Kaepernick’s name from the soundtrack. In 2017, the Mike WiLL Made It song, “Bars Of Soap” on the game’s soundtrack had its lyrics edited to censor Kaepernick’s name, too. EA Sports has yet to acknowledge this particular claim, but Kaepernick has been active on Twitter, sharing similar accusations made by others.

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The Madden game is considered an official piece of NFL merchandise, as EA acquired the rights to use NFL logos, teams and players. Considering Colin Kaepernick filed a formal, legal grievance against the National Football League and team executives, using a song for the game’s soundtrack which mentions Kaepernick potentially presents a conflict of interest. As such, some argue it’s no surprise his name was censored as to protect the interests of the NFL in the ongoing legal dispute. Kaepernick has not appeared in a regular season game since 2016.