Madden NFL 19 creators Electronic Arts have apologised to outspoken quarterback Colin Kaepernick after his name was censored from the soundtrack of the league’s official video game.
Kaepernick, 30, took the San Francisco 49ers to Superb Bowl XLVII in 2012 but since opting out of his contract in 2016 has been known more for his protests against racial injustice in the United States.
After refusing to stand while the United States national anthem was being played before the start of NFL games, Kaepernick has since been shunned by the NFL and hasn’t played since leaving the 49ers.
The newest edition of the popular Madden game franchise alters a lyric from a song used on the soundtrack – by rapper Big Sean in his verse on YG’s “Big Bank”.
The omission was discovered by a Twitter user on Thursday, prompting an apology from game developer EA, which said the decision to blank out the reference to the player was an “unfortunate mistake”.
The revelation – confirmed by Pro Football Talk, which received an advance copy of the game – prompted howls of derision on social media, including from Big Sean.
“It’s disappointing and appalling @NFL & @EA took @Kaepernick7’s name out of my verse on Big Bank for Madden 19, like it was a curse word,” he tweeted.
“When he’s not a curse, he’s a gift! Nobody from my team approved any of this.”
The artist’s response prompted a reply from the former 49er. Kaepernick responded: “Much love brother! Thank you for having my back!”
EA later issued a statement apologising for what it called an error.
“We made an unfortunate mistake with our Madden NFL soundtrack,” the company said.
“Members of our team misunderstood the fact that while we don’t have rights to include Colin Kaepernick in the game, this doesn’t affect soundtracks.
“We messed up, and the edit should never have happened. We will make it right, with an update to Madden NFL 19 on August 6 that will include the reference again.
“We meant no disrespect, and we apologise to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake.”
After he began kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to racial inequality and police brutality, Kaepernick was unable to get an NFL job and has sued the NFL saying league owners colluded to keep him unsigned as retaliation for the protests.
It’s disappointing and appalling @NFL & @EA took @Kaepernick7’s name out of my verse on Big Bank for Madden 19, like it was a curse word. When he's not a curse, he's a gift! Nobody from my team approved any of this.— Sean Don (@BigSean) 2 August 2018
With public opinion sharply divided on the subject – and US President Donald Trump calling players who decline to stand for the anthem unpatriotic – the NFL has struggled to formulate a policy on the issue.
In May, the league approved one which required players to stand for the pre-game playing of the anthem, although it gave players the option of remaining in the locker room instead.
That was put on hold last week, however, as the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to reopen dialogue to reach agreement on a new approach.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, meanwhile, has said his players would be required to stand and would not be allowed to remain in the locker room.
That stance drew quick praise from Trump but had Philadelphia Eagles star Malcolm Jenkins labeling Jones a “bully”.
The story overshadowed Thursday’s opening game of the NFL’s pre-season, the Hall of Fame Game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears.
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