For the first time since August 23, 2016, Colin Kaepernick can take the field in the “Madden” video game series. The free agent quarterback has remained unsigned for the last four seasons despite having success in the NFL but remained in the public’s eye through his advocacy against police brutality and racial inequality.
The former Turlock native and Pitman High School alumnus last played for the San Francisco 49ers where he experienced success in leading the team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012 against the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens. This was followed by an appearance in the 2013 National Football Conference (NFC) Championship game where the San Francisco 49ers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. However, the following three seasons from 2013 to 2016 were less successful for Kaepernick’s team with them failing to have a season with a winning record.
It was in the 2016 preseason that Kaepernick attracted the media’s attention by sitting through the U.S National Anthem during the third preseason game of the year in protest of police brutality and the oppression of people of color.
In each following game, Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem and instead took a knee in protest, regardless of if he was the starting quarterback for the game or if he was the backup. Kaepernick continued this until he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers on March 3 of 2017, prior to the start of the season. Kaepernick’s absence from the football field was quickly mirrored in the Madden series as he was not a part of the game in “Madden 18,” nor was he in the next two games in the franchise.
Some football fans continue to support Kaepernick’s choices despite his absence from the football field and video games.
“He’s a good player, but the constant benching after his silent protest seemed to negatively affect how he played when he was actually put into the game. I can only imagine the strength it takes to be one of the first to make a statement that society considers 'disrespectful' or 'out of line,'” explains San Francisco 49ers fan and Turlock resident Hunter Freeman.
Others such as Peter Diaz (sophomore, Business Administration) sympathize much less with the former 49ers quarterback. “Colin Kaepernick is not a social rights activist. The more 'woke' he is, the more attention he will receive. Kneeling for the national anthem is wrong and is degrading to the country.”
Fast forward to present day and the topics of police brutality and the oppression of people of color are still being addressed. Kaepernick has continued to express his opinions on social issues and continued to express the importance of standing by his decision. While he is still awaiting a chance to resume his football career, EA Sports has allowed for gamers to assist with this goal in a virtual format.
As of September 8, 2020, EA Sports released a statement on Twitter stating that Kaepernick would be available in the newly released “Madden 21” as the highest rated quarterback available as a free agent. He would also be available to be put onto any team via software patch, despite not appearing in the last three editions of the game. Additionally, his rating puts him above 17 other starting NFL quarterbacks such as stars like Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, confusing many football fans.
Coming in with an overall rating of 81 out of 99, some players may opt to utilize Kaepernick’s availability as an opportunity to improve their team. Others may simply want to play as the former 49ers quarterback just for the sake of doing so. However, playing as Kaepernick is not a mandatory feature of the game and players who are content with their experience will not be forced to play as him or add him to their team.
Chrysta Borba (sophomore, Sociology) shared her mixed feelings about the game's latest update. “I think it makes sense to have him back in the game when he is still a free agent in real life. I personally don’t have any interest in playing as him but I’m sure there are others who are excited about it.”
While many will be excited to play as Kaepernick, there will be many who are against him being put into the game in such an attention grabbing way. There will also be many who are indifferent and simply want to play with their favorite team as it is. Regardless of the player’s opinion, Colin Kaepernick is on the open market and is now just as available to suit up for game day in “Madden” as he is in real life.