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Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned by an NFL team, but the athlete and activist is returning to the virtual NFL field for Madden NFL.
EA Sports announced on Tuesday that, for the first time since 2016, Kaepernick appears in the video game series as the top free-agent quarterback in Madden 21. Fans can play as Kaepernick and place him at the helm of any NFL team in franchise mode, in addition to playing him in Play Now.
"Colin Kaepernick is one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback," a statement from EA reads. "The team at EA Sports, along with millions of Madden NFL fans, want to see him back in our game."
The former San Francisco 49ers player debuted in Madden as a rookie in 2011 through to his most recent past appearance in Madden 17 in 2016. Madden 17 was released days after a football game between the 49ers and Houston Texans during which Kaepernick knelt during the performance of the national anthem as a silent protest against systemic oppression, racism, police terrorism, and injustice. Madden NFL addressed this moment through in-game commentary.
Kaepernick became a free agent after that season as many inside and outside the NFL grew more polarized by his decision to kneel. The moment was highly politicized as many falsely claimed Kaepernick was protesting the American flag.
As reported by The Undefeated, Kaepernick was removed from Madden NFL because he was not included in the licensing agreement as negotiated through the NFL Players Association. Kaepernick's name was also removed from two songs that featured on the soundtracks for Madden 18 and Madden 19. EA Sports said that was a mistake at the time.
"We've had a long relationship with Colin through Madden NFL and worked through our past soundtrack mistakes," the EA Sports statement continues. "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."
Outside of gaming, Kaepernick is working with director Ava DuVernay on a Netflix series that's based on his high school years. He's also releasing a memoir in 2020 that will cover his decision to protest.