Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who is currently jailed and facing murder charges, is being removed from both of EA Sports’ football video game franchises, Madden and NCAA Football.
The video game controversy began on Monday, when sports fan Richard Lowe spotted Aaron Hernandez—appearing in his No. 81 Florida Gators jersey—as a reward for completing an objective in NCAA Football 14.
While Hernandez—who attended UF from 2007 to 2009 before being selected in the 2010 NFL draft—was not actually usable in the game, that specific portrait is slated to be patched out, according to a spokesperson for the company (per Will Brinson of CBS Sports).
Brinson reports that any mention, image or likeness of the controversial former NFL star will be removed from NCAA Football 14 in the near future and will not be in Madden NFL 25 when it is released in August.
EA Sports' official statement is as follows, per Brinson's report:
We made a decision to remove Aaron Hernandez from Madden NFL 25 and NCAA Football 14. Because NCAA Football 14 was finalized prior to our decision, Hernandez' image still appears in the Nike Skills Trainer. However, he is not in the game, and anyone who unlocks that particular Nike Skills Trainer reward will receive an Alex Smith Ultimate Team player item instead. The image of Hernandez will be removed via a Title Update in the near future.
Owen Good of video game blog Kotaku confirmed this, with the Electronic Arts spokesperson reassuring him that Hernandez will be removed soon: "Given the requirements of submission, certification and approval we anticipate this will be accomplished in the near future.”
Even though the three-year veteran is eligible to be claimed on waivers, the transaction would need a special approval from commissioner Roger Goodell to go through. Needless to say, that move would be extremely unlikely given Hernandez's current situation.
In the past, EA Sports has removed players for run-ins with the law, including Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress. While Hernandez hasn't been convicted of anything, this preemptive strike is not surprising.
Considering that Hernandez is the prime suspect in a high-profile murder case, it would be foolish for EA Sports to leave him in the games at this juncture.