Although former San Francisco quarterback turned social activist Colin Kaepernick is still looking to return to the NFL, he’ll be able to get in a few reps on the virtual gridiron as he waits. EA Sports announced Tuesday that Kaepernick will be available in its latest installment in the Madden video game franchise.
Kaepernick makes his virtual NFL comeback as the top free agent in Madden ’21. He will have an overall rating of 81, which puts him in the top 15 of the game’s 111 total quarterbacks. Kaepernick has been absent from the game since 2016, the year he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
EA Sports released the following statement on Twitter, announcing the addition of Kaepernick.
“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,” the statement reads.
“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.”
Kaepernick made his Madden debut in 2011 during his rookie year. He was featured in Madden commercials and promotional material for three straight years from 2013 to 2015. He appeared in promotional material more than any other NFL player in the video game’s history.
Prior to EA’s announcement on Tuesday, Kaepernick’s last appearance in the franchise came in Madden ’17 which was released two weeks ahead of the 2016 season. Just nine days before the game’s release, Kaepernick decided not to stand during the national anthem before a preseason game.
Following the 2016 NFL season, Kaepernick became a free agent. Due to his release from the 49ers organization, the NFL Players Association did not include Kaepernick in the group licensing agreement. EA Sports no longer had the rights to the quarterback’s likeness.
Kaepernick did not appear in Madden ’18, Madden ’19, or Madden ’20. EA also mistakenly removed his name from the game’s soundtrack. After Madden users discovered that Kaepernick’s name was missing from two of the game’s songs, EA offered an apology.
Ahead of the release of Madden ’21, EA Sports approached Kaepernick to negotiate the rights to his likeness. Kaepernick was heavily involved in determining what his avatar would look like in-game. He asked that his player wear an Afro and that his signature celebration be a Black Power fist.
Madden ’21 will allow users to assign Kaepernick to any NFL team in the game’s Franchise mode. EA Sports also announced that during NFL kickoff weekend, Madden ’21 will be free. All users will be able to play as Kaepernick throughout Week 1.