Here's how Kaepernick returned to 'Madden' even without an NFL contract

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Video game enthusiasts didn’t have the chance to play as Colin Kaepernick in the three most recent editions of EA Sports’ Madden NFL franchise.

This year Kaepernick returns to the game for Madden 21 after negotiating the rights to his likeness with the video game company, according to The Undefeated’s Aaron Dodson.

EA Sports has not included the former 49ers star quarterback since the 2016 season, explaining that as a free agent, his likeness was not included in the group licensing agreement that the company negotiates with the NFL Players Association.

But after the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd put racial justice protests back on the forefront of American minds, EA Sports reached out to Kaepernick and negotiated his inclusion in the game.

Dodson’s report states that Kaepernick was involved in determining how he would be depicted in the game, including his now-signature Afro (he was previously shown with cornrows, which he wore before 2016) and a Black Power fist as his signature celebration.

EA Sports agrees with some analysts who argue Kaepernick would be a starter if not for NFL teams’ political aversions to signing him: His overall rating was 81 Tuesday morning in Madden 21, good for 15th among all quarterbacks in the game — ahead of former MVP Cam Newton and top picks Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jared Goff.

When our video game columnist Gieson Cacho searched for him Tuesday afternoon, his rating read 80, still 14 points above any other free-agent quarterback.

The company used “data-driven simulations that took his ongoing free agency into account” in determining his rating, according to Dodson’s report.

“Colin Kaepernick is one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback,” EA Sports wrote in a statement Tuesday. “The team at EA SPORTS, along with millions of Madden NFL fans, want to see him back in our game.”

Using Franchise mode, any Madden player can sign Kaepernick to their team as a free agent — even if real-life NFL teams won’t — and envision restarting his football career while carrying on his efforts as a racial justice icon.

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©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)