Arguably the best receiver of his generation will finally grace the cover of the Madden NFL video game, with EA Sports announcing Antonio Brown as the cover athlete for this year’s edition.
Unlike recent covers which have had action shots of players, Madden 19 will feature Brown smiling with his helmet off to show his fun-loving personality.
Here, we rank the top five Madden covers through the game’s history.
1. Madden 18
It would have felt wrong if Madden didn’t feature Tom Brady at least once during his legendary career. He his, after all, the greatest quarterback of all-time and a five-time Super Bowl champion. Madden even released a ‘G.O.A.T. Edition’ to truly make Brady’s involvement feel special, and the cover is a must-have for any collection.
2. Madden 2004
No one in the NFL was cooler than Michael Vick back in the early 2000s and his virtual athlete in Madden 2004 was as unstoppable as it gets. You had to practically have a ‘no Atlanta Falcons rule’ against friends because Vick was so fast that stopping his scrambles was even more impossible than in real life.
3. Madden 10
This is the only time Madden has featured two players on the cover, with Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald symmetrically facing one another. It’s a cool image, especially with their hair flowing out of their helmets, and followed a memorable Super Bowl.
4. Madden 16
After Odell Beckham Jr made one of the greatest catches in NFL history, Madden commemorated the moment on the cover of Madden 16. Okay, so it wasn’t the same exact catch, but you get the idea. Beckham was also coming off a jaw-dropping rookie season in which he took the league by storm, so his inclusion felt appropriate.
5. Madden 17
Rob Gronkowski’s famous spike celebration is perfect for the cover of Madden 17. From the pose, to the ferocity in his face, it just works. Also, if there’s any player in the NFL that should be associated with a video game, it’s Gronk, who doesn’t take life too seriously and is as unfair of a match-up as anyone in the league.
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United States President Donald Trump “can’t believe” that the talk over the NFL national anthem protests is “alive and well again”. He shouldn’t be surprised, and neither should anybody else, because the NFL – as they’ve so often done – have mishandled the entire situation.
The league continue to misstep on critical issues which threaten to damage their product. Previously it was concussions and the debilitating effect they have on players. Now, it’s a topic which has nothing to do with the play on the field, but everything to do with the players themselves and their social consciousness.
And the NFL refuse to pick a side, with their players on one end and Trump – along with his followers – on the other. By trying to appease both parties, the league has only managed to anger everyone. It’s classic NFL – they can’t help but shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity.
Two months after the league decided on a rule which said every player and team had to stand for the anthem while on the field, and just hours after a report that the Miami Dolphins could impose a four-game suspension for protesting players, the NFL reacted to the backlash by halting any enforcement of the policy for the time being.
Now, the NFL and NFL Players Association will hold discussions in the hopes of reaching a compromise.
That, of course, drew the ire of Trump on Twitter as he again criticised the league and its players, while suggesting they be banned for a game on their first offence, and then suspended for the season without pay after the second instance.
The league was always going to receive some bad press and hand-wringing one way or the other. You just have to accept that when you’re dealing with such a contentious issue – in America, at least – of players kneeling during the national anthem.
Forget for a moment that the protests couldn’t be more peaceful and inoffensive, especially in the context of the straw-man argument that it’s an affront to the military and the concept of patriotism. Anyone with a brain and a shred of morality knows the players who kneel in protest are doing nothing wrong, and certainly nothing that should be punishable.
Unfortunately, because of who administers the executive branch of the US government, the protests were never going to go unbothered. But if you think Trump truly cares one iota about the national anthem and its sanctity, you’ve been suckered. What he really cares about is riling up and drawing the approval of the same people who put him in office.
Trump will never miss an opportunity to press on this hot-button issue. The NFL should have known this and committed to either defying him and letting him kick and scream for a bit, or silencing him by throwing him a bone and enacting an anti-kneeling policy.
Again, look at this from the most objective viewpoint possible and not from a standpoint of, you know, human decency. The NFL shouldn’t run its league based on the whims of the President, as powerful as he is, but if they wanted people to stop talking about this, or at least get it out of the news cycle, all they had to do was commit.
Instead, they’ve picked at their wounds by trying to play both sides without actually settling on a solution. And now everyone is talking about this and rehashing it all over again, just weeks out from training camp opening up. The NFL starts picking up steam in August ahead of the new season, but rather than the lead-up focusing on what’s going to happen on the field, it’ll be centred on an issue the league wishes would just die.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has proven time and time again to be clueless. As the shepherd of the league, appeasing owners is part of his job description, but the extent to which he’s carried out the agendas of others couldn’t be more transparent.
We know the league wants to cater to Trump and his rich supporters who own teams. You can’t do that and then try to buddy up to the players, because they won’t buy it.
Good luck keeping players from kneeling now. It’s not fair to say players will kneel simply out of spite – there are actual issues they’re protesting – but if they were on the fence before, the way the NFL has jerked them around may give them more incentive.
Congratulations NFL, you’ve painted yourself into a corner once again.
The debate over the protests, which has been ongoing for months, was ignited again this week when it was reported that the Miami Dolphins had formally told players they could be punished for protesting on the field.
Writing on Twitter, Trump expressed surprise that the debate was “alive and well again” – and proposed a two-pronged penalty for protesters.
He said: “The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The 40,000,000 dollar (£30m) Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!”
The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again - can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2018
Trump previously suggested anthem protesters “shouldn’t be in the country”, and has also called for NFL owners to sack players who refused to stand.
In May, NFL owners announced that players must respect the anthem by standing, or otherwise stay off the field in the dressing room.
A decision was also made to fine teams whose players do not stand.
Kneeling during the anthem began in 2016 when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did so to protest against police brutality towards African-Americans.
The 2017 season was marked by numerous protests during the pre-game anthems, with several players taking a knee to raise awareness of social and racial inequality.