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EA bleeped Colin Kaepernick’s name from the ‘Madden NFL 19’ soundtrack – ANITH
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EA bleeped Colin Kaepernick’s name from the ‘Madden NFL 19’ soundtrack

EA bleeped Colin Kaepernick’s name from the ‘Madden NFL 19’ soundtrack

Over the past couple years there’s been a resurgence in cries to “keep politics out of games,” be it in video games or football games. All of it seems to have converged today into one perfect example of why that is not only impossible, but illogical.

A Twitter user discovered that, in a Big Sean lyric from a song included in Madden NFL 19’s soundtrack, publisher EA bleeped out a verse that mentions Colin Kaepernick’s name. 

Kaepernick, you’ll remember, is the former quarterback who has been exiled from the NFL for two years, since he dared to kneel during the national anthem in quiet protest of police brutality and racial inequality. He also filed a grievance against the NFL last October, claiming that they had colluded to keep him out of the league for his political views.

In the original version of YG’s song “Big Bank,” Big Sean’s verse says: “You boys all cap, I’m more Colin Kaepernick.” Now listen to the Madden version, which censors Kaepernick’s name:

Much later in the day, EA issued a statement claiming that it was a “mistake” rather than deliberate: 

We made an unfortunate mistake with our Madden NFL soundtrack. 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 apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake.

It’s hard to imagine such a hyper-polished AAA game and developer would make such an oddly specific mistake. But let’s take EA at their word. Because regardless, the seemingly small but telling omission — treating a man’s name as if it were a curse word to be bleeped — highlights a common misconception that’s spread from games to football.

An argument you hear more and more these days is that entertainment should be devoid of politics. But as this situations shows, apolitical entertainment is a false ideal. And historically, the demand for it has been used as an excuse to silence the politics of those who challenge the status quo.

The demand for “apolitical” entertainment is an excuse to silence politics that challenge the status quo

The gaming community has been dealing the this argument for years, but it reached its peak in 2014 when “no politics in games” became a rallying cry for the online hate mob GamerGate. Many major game publishers conceded, often echoing the sentiment that they make games for fun and that they’re not making political statements. Recently, a video game magazine even relaunched with the promise that, “We’re leaving politics at the door.”

The NFL seems to be going down a similar path. 

Ironically, the calls to remove politics from football originated from the President of the United States himself, when he encouraged fans to boycott the NFL over player protests. Soon after, NFL officials like Houston Texas Owner Bob McNair started using this same argument in the national anthem controversy, saying, “Our playing fields — that’s not the place for political statements.”

I’m not the first to say it, but I’d like to say it louder in case the folks in the back failed to hear: Being “apolitical” is a political stance. Only people from groups that are in power have the privilege of believing in the false notion that one can opt out of politics, while those in the margins suffer the consequences of being silenced and excluded from the political system.

And it should go without saying, but playing the national anthem during a football game is in itself a political statement too. Our president made that even clearer when he called it “unpatriotic” for players to exercise their constitutional freedom of expression by kneeling during it. 

Exiling Kaepernick from the NFL is a political act. Deliberately removing even the faintest hint of his name from Madden is also a political act. People have a right to feel whichever way they want about the politics of these actions. But we cannot pretend they exist in a vacuum or are somehow exempt from political implications.

When people demand that we “keep politics out of x or y,” what they’re really saying is that they only want to see their politics represented in x or y. And it would appear many organizations are willing to comply.

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Anith Gopal
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