For what it’s worth: I don’t think it is totally outrageous to include Kaepernick in the game. He worked out for a few teams as recently as November 2019, and could conceivably be signed to an NFL roster at some point in the near future. But the over-the-top celebration of Kaepernick is not only ham-fisted, but downright creepy.
The game does not simply rate Kaepernick as a “starting-caliber QB.” He’s also a high-end one. With an overall rating of 81, Kaepernick is tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger — who has two Super Bowl rings — and the Raiders’ Derek Carr — who has the fifth-highest QBR in the league this year — as the 14th-best best signal-caller in the entire game! That’s better than the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, who actually has the 14th-highest QBR; better than Jimmy Garoppolo, whose 49ers went to the Super Bowl last year; and better than Carson Wentz, who is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, despite a slow start to his 2020 season. Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, and Teddy Bridgewater are all also worse than Kaepernick per Madden 21 — but absolutely no one else.
Should you visit the neglected Franchise mode and attempt to sign a free agent, you will be asked, “Are you sure you want to sign player x to team y?” That is, you will be asked this of any free agent except for Kaepernick. But once you have indicated that you’d like to sign him, the game is far less cautious. Of course you want Colin Kaepernick on your team. “Congratulations!” it says. “You’re about to sign C. Kaepernick to team y! Hit Yes to confirm.” What with all of the pomp and circumstance, you’d half expect an achievement notification.