Update: An EA representative provided Gamasutra with the following statement, indicating Kaepernick's name will be un-muted in the near future and alleging the omission was due to copyright concerns.
“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.”
The original story can be found below:
If you pick up a copy of Madden NFL 19 sometime in the next few weeks, you might hear a song by YG called "Big Bank" that features a verse from artist Big Sean. What might surprise you is that the verse, which mentions former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick, has been briefly muted in the new Madden to omit mention of the former player.
This discovery comes by way of NBC's Pro Football Talk and Twitter user jeanclervil, who found the muted lyric earlier today. If you're behind on football news, you should probably know that this omission is significant because Colin Kaepernick, who protested police violence against Black Americans during his tenure with the 49ers, has filed grievance against the NFL alleging collusion to not re-hire him after he ended his contract with the 49ers.
It's important to stress that what may seem like a small decision on the part of EA (artist Big Sean says he did not approve the muting, YG has not commented at this time) may have both legal and social implications given the impact of Kaepernick (and the league's) actions to date.
On the legal front, Kaepernick's argument for collusion could be supported by the fact that this censorship how now allegedly happened two years in a row, since Pro Football Talk also dug up a muted song from Madden 18 that featured mention of his name (while retaining his appearance in the game since he was a free agent that season). If the NFL made this request to EA as part of its licensing agreement, that could add fuel to Kaepernick's legal argument.
Taking the broader view, muting Kaepernick's name the way Madden games frequently censor swear words is a chilling message for players, many of whom are the very people Kaepernick has been advocating for: children, teenagers, and adults who are used to being targeted by police because of the color of their skin.
All of the words that usually get hidden from Madden's soundtrack are considered rude, offensive, or otherwise barriers to an E rating from the ESRB. To act like a former player's name, especially one whose actions directly confront racism in American society, is somehow ill-fitting for a sports game is to quietly give favor for arguments against Kaepernick's protest, which often carry racist undertones.
It communicates, even unintentionally, that Kaepernick's name and work fighting racism are not conversation for "all ages," and it's literally best to pretend he doesn't exist.
We've reached out to EA for comment on this decision and will update this story when they get back to us.