Colin Kaepernick has returned to the Madden franchise after a four-year absence. He’s live today in Madden NFL 21, where players can have him lead a team in Franchise mode or select him in Play Now.
Kaepernick debuted in the EA series in 2011 and his final appearance was in Madden NFL 17, which landed in the middle of 2016. That year, Kaepernick became the focus of national attention when he chose to kneel during the national anthem as a protest against systemic racism and police brutality. He attracted support but also intense criticism from within the NFL itself. In response to his protest, NFL leadership voted to require players to stand during the national anthem.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said in 2016. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."
Kaepernick became a free agent after the 2016 season, and he hasn’t shown up in Madden since then. EA even censored his name in a song in Madden NFL 19, though the publisher called this an unintentional error, apologized, and reinstated the complete track.
Today, EA said Kaepernick was one of the top free agents in the league and a “starting-caliber quarterback.” In a statement posted to Twitter, EA continued, “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.”
According to The Undefeated, EA Sports approached Kaepernick this summer about including his likeness in Madden 21, and he was “hands-on” in the creation of his avatar, including its signature celebration move of raising a Black Power fist.
In the wake of nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality this year, the NFL has altered its tone toward player protests. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in August he made a mistake in not listening to Kaepernick.