When NFL Hall of Famer John Madden died last week, pro football paid tribute to his 10-year coaching stint and his decades-long broadcasting career, which arguably superseded the fame he earned along the sidelines.
Madden, as a commentator, gave us “Boom!” as an exclamation for a big play, popularized the telestrator, and introduced fans to the “turducken.”
But Madden, who was one of the most universally liked people affiliated with the NFL, also left another legacy: a prolific video game.
The “Madden” NFL video game by EA Sports sold well more than 130 million copies over its three decades, amassing more than $4 billion in sales. Back in August, just before the start of the NFL season, the game was once again the bestselling video game of the year.
Yet the electronic version of the NFL led at least one woke liberal to swipe at Madden in death.
Andrew McGregor, a history professor at Dallas College in Texas, who styles himself a “sports studies influencer,” accused Madden of creating a “digital plantation” that “dehumanized” black athletes.
In a rant on Twitter just hours after Madden passed away, as reported by the conservative websites The College Fix and Newsbusters, McGregor said, “I have lots of opinions on John Madden. The creation of the Madden video game was not a great development for the U.S. It further glamorized violence and dehumanized Black athletes, helping to establish plantation cosplay that has grown worse in the era of fantasy football.”
“The video game distanced the reality of the violent sport from fans, and transformed human behaviors into artificial numbers and simulations. It glamorized athletes, using their name for profits while encouraging fans to disregard the humanity. Madden built a digital plantation.”
“At every point in his career — coach, announcer, video game producer — Madden profited off of Black athletic labor and glamorized the violence inherent in the game. He became ubiquitous and grew the NFL into the most popular game, and hastened the development of esports,” continued McGregor.
“Sure, there is a lot of significance to his life and his impact. But it’s pretty clear most of his accomplishments were not beneficial or healthy for athletes, particularly non-white athletes. John Madden made a life in football, one of the most violent and exploitative sports. When your entire life is based on expanding and profiting off of one the most violent and exploitative games, veneration is not exactly something that you deserve.”
Sure, and let’s not mention that those same athletes chose to play this violent game, that countless numbers of them made more money than they could imagine doing so, and in the process earned acclaim and admiration from fans of all races.
And also, let’s not mention how many hours of enjoyment those Madden games brought to young black football fans – or football fans in general, such as Professor McGregor himself when Twitter sleuths dug out a 2017 tweet about how he played the game with his brother.
Let’s also not forget the athletes themselves.
For example, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Richard Sherman, who is black and enjoyed his best seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, tweeted after Madden died: “R.I.P. to John Madden. It was one of my greatest honors to grace the cover of your video game. Thank you for the years of joy and motivation!”
Of course, the professor may want to watch the documentary “High Score.”
If so, he’d know that black players showed up in EA’s “Madden” game because Gordon Bellamy, a gay black man who played Madden as a kid and was a designer for the game at EA in the mid-1990s, suggested incorporating black players to make the game more authentic.
Perhaps McGregor, who on social media also describes himself as “just your neighborhood vegan liberal college professor,” just went fishing for attention in order to shore up his bona fides as an “influencer.” If so, he got it.
One who noticed his tweet rant was Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, who tweeted, “And we wonder why so many college professors hate Barstool? Cause these are the teachers and their students go work at Deadspin and Dailybeast and Business Insider and then somehow are taken seriously. They all deserve to be in a straight jacket.”
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