He’s back. Sort of.
EA Sports and Colin Kaepernick have struck a deal to return him to the popular Madden video game.
“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,” EA said in a statement.
EA’s statement goes even farther: “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.” (Emphasis added.)
The “soundtrack mistakes” refers to a decision to deliberately choose songs containing Kaepernick’s name in the lyrics and to scrub his name from those songs in the Madden 18 and Madden 19 soundtracks.
“Soundtrack mistakes” aside, EA’s statement strongly pushes back on the notion that Kaepernick currently isn’t good enough to play in the NFL, giving him an 81 rating despite missing three seasons.
“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,” EA said. “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.”
The move by EA surely comes with the express permission of the NFL, given that the NFL exclusively licenses to EA the ability to create a game using NFL names and logos.
Still, there’s an obvious question about the timing of this announcement. The game debuted in late August. Why wasn’t Kaepernick included at the time? Why wasn’t he added at any point before now, the first business day after the setting of rosters and practice squads for the 2020 season?
If Kaepernick had re-emerged in Madden with an 81 rating while all rosters were at 80, that would have triggered a flood of fresh questions regarding why someone doesn’t offer him a roster spot. While the questions still may come, with only 53 players on each roster (but also 16 on each practice squad), the NFL’s apparent imprimatur will be more inconspicuous than it would have been during camp.
And as to anyone who would say Kaepernick doesn’t want to be anything other than a starter in the NFL, why doesn’t a team call his bluff? Offer him a minimum-salary deal. Offer him a spot on the practice squad, at $12,000 per week. If he declines, that narrative will be strengthened.
Maybe no one has given him a chance to say no because they realize there’s a chance he’ll say yes.