Colin Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016, but he is now playable in EA Sports Madden video game series as a free agent.
The former 49ers quarterback was added back to the video game series in a September 8 update to the Madden NFL 21 game that was originally released August 28, 2020.
The move doesn’t seem to have helped the game, which currently has a “mostly negative” rating on Steam.
EA announces it is bringing Kaepernick back:
EA released a statement on Twitter announcing they were bringing Kaepernick back:
Colin Kaepernick is one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback. 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.”
In addition to announcing the return of the QB, the statement mentions that EA and Kaepernick “worked through our past soundtrack mistakes.” That’s a reference to how EA removed Kaepernick’s name from a song used in “Madden 19.”
EA chalked the incident up to a misunderstanding after being accused of censoring the quarterback’s name. They claimed that the reason Kaepernick’s name was removed was due to a mistaken belief that EA did not have the rights to use his name.
An elite player?
Despite not playing professionally in more than three years, EA granted virtual Kaepernick elite status. His overall rating in the game is 81, which ties him with Pittsburgh Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger for 15th best QB in the game. That also puts him ahead of Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill (who was rated 80) and Patriots QB Cam Newton, who was rated 78.
In total, the 81 rating granted to Kaepernick puts him ahead of 17 Week One starting quarterbacks, and it also makes him the highest-rated free agent in the game. EA explained the decision: “Based on Kaepernick’s prior on-the-field performance, combined with our data-driven EA SPORTS ratings simulations, Kaepernick is an 81 OVR, which takes into account that he has not taken the field since 2016. When Kaepernick was a healthy starting quarterback he was rated 89, 89, 81 overall and known for his strong touchdown-to-interception ratio, mobility, and playoff performances.”
It’s hard to argue he’d stack up so favorably in the real world today. His performance measurably fell off after a solid first season, to the point where he was eventually benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. It was during the 2016 season (which turned out to be his final season) that Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem to protest against racial injustice and police brutality. He was then given a lucrative Nike deal.
His overall rating in Madden 17 (the last time he appeared in the game) was just 74.
Steam user Pkinzane complained that “EA does not know how to rate players, they rate off of how big the names are in the football world.” Other users complained about performance issues with the video game itself.
Signature celebration: Black Power
EA also announced that “Madden” now features signature celebrations that users can activate following a touchdown or big play. According to EA, Kaepernick chose a fist raised in the air as a symbol of Black Power for his signature celebration.
Fitting, considering his signature play is the QB Kneel.