Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback seemingly shunned by the NFL over his anthem protests, has now had his name censored from the soundtrack of the league’s official video game.
The omission was discovered by a Twitter user on Thursday, prompting an apology from game developer Electronic Arts, which said the decision to blank out the reference to the player on “Madden NFL 19” was an “unfortunate mistake”.
The newest edition of the popular game franchise alters a lyric from a song used on the soundtrack – rapper Big Sean’s verse on YG’s “Big Bank.”
The revelation – confirmed by Pro Football Talk, which received an advance copy of the game – prompted howls of derision on social media.
“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,” tweeted Big Sean. “When he’s not a curse, he’s a gift! Nobody from my team approved any of this.”
Kaepernick responded, saying: “Much love brother! Thank you for having my back!”
EA later issued a statement apologizing 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 apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake.”
Kaepernick became a lightning rod for controversy when, as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, he began kneeling during the US national anthem before NFL games to draw attention to racial inequality and police brutality.
In 2017 he 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.
With public opinion sharply divided on the anthem protests – 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 a policy which required players on the field to stand for the pre-game playing of the anthem, although it gave players the option of remaining in the locker room instead.
The new policy was put on hold last week as the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to reopen dialogue to reach agreement on a new approach.
Even as the league and union talked, however, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that 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 labelling 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 the Chicago Bears.