Top 5 Things the NFL Banned From Madden

It seems as though the saying of “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game” doesn’t always apply in the No Fun League.

With any major league video game, there are certain things that publishers, developers, and fans would like to see added or kept. The problem is those decisions aren’t always up to those actually building the game.

For EA Sports and the Madden NFL series, there are a number of elements to the game that need to be approved by the NFL. Due to the way the rights agreement works between EA and the NFL, if the league doesn’t want it in the game, it doesn’t get put in the game.

From an old popular fun element to depictions of health concerns, these are five things that the NFL had banned from Madden.

The Ambulance

Let’s kick things off with a feature first seen in Madden NFL ’92. The famed ambulance was one of the most fun aspects of any Madden game from the 90s. When a player was hurt, the ambulance didn’t care who it had to hit — and seemingly injure — in order to get to the downed player. It was so out of the ordinary that it quickly became a fan-favorite element due to the countless laughs it caused for players.

Unfortunately, the NFL didn’t see it that way. After its appearance in Madden NFL 2001, the league requested EA Sports to remove it going forward because of the glorification of injuries. This marked the first thing EA was forced to remove by the league.

Sure, it wasn’t exactly the best way to deal with an injury, but it’s a video game. To remove anything that was deemed fun by the consumers — you know, the people that keep the companies in business — can only be viewed as a negative by fans.

Concussions and Head Injuries

It’s a major topic in the NFL today, but the shield still wants it downplayed to “protect the brand”. With more and more doctors revealing the effects football and hits to the head have on players, it made sense to address them in game. However, the NFL didn’t want the term “concussion” to be used.

Instead, players suffer “head injuries” in the game. By keeping the word concussion out of the game’s dialogue, the NFL apparently believes it will lessen the number of people who talk about the problems of head injuries in the game? It doesn’t make sense to me and I doubt it makes sense to you. Nevertheless, “concussion” is no-no word in the eyes of the NFL in Madden.

Equipment

Next up is something that makes a little bit of sense despite it still being lame: equipment restrictions.

Because of the NFL’s overly strict equipment policies, certain things regarding what the players wear just aren’t allowed in the game.

These included the following:

  • Colored visors
  • Crop tops/untucked jerseys
  • Custom colored gear(cleats, gloves)
  • Big grill/overbuilt facemasks
  • Exposed back plates
  • Exposed Legs
  • Facemask tape

Oh man! Can’t show any leg or stomach. It might upset those who aren’t in as good of shape as the digital players in a video game.

We get that realism should be a thing, but how about letting players enjoy the fantasy world that video games allow them to enter. If they want a colored visor, let them! If they want to show off that virtual six pack that most of us can’t get in real life? Reveal it!

Violent Hits/ Helmets Knocked Off

Piggybacking off the topic of concussions, the hit stick in Madden NFL used to be one of the most beloved features in the game. When it first debuted in Madden NFL 2005, it quickly became a talking point for players everywhere. Now, instead of just regular tackles, they can create their own “Jacked Up!” moments that they had gotten used to seeing on ESPN every week.

Once it hit a certain popularity, the NFL started to crack down on what happened with the hit stick. From head snaps and whiplash to helmets being knocked off in contact, the league felt too much of the feature was too violent. In fact, helmets popping off after hard hits hasn’t been seen since Madden 06 on Xbox and PlayStation 2. When the series jumped to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, EA Sports was forced to leave that element of the game behind, though members of the development team claimed it’s because the technology didn’t allow it to be done.

However, when it was finally able to be added back to the game, the NFL squashed the idea simply because they didn’t like it. Apparently, the NFL doesn’t think it actually happens in the real game.

Empty Stadiums

Both the NBA 2K and MLB The Show series have it, but apparently, the NFL refuses to believe that their stadiums are never sold out.

In Madden 11, EA Sports added dynamic attendance that would take into account weather, time of year, and records in order to calculate how full a stadium was in a given week. It’s almost as if they wanted to use the same determining factors in the game as real fans due each week during the season. The developers even made it so teams that always struggled with attendance in real life — ie Jacksonville — would also struggle in the game.

This led to owners contacting the league about it which led to the NFL forcing EA Sports to remove the dynamic attendance feature from the game. And, as you would expect, it hasn’t been added in the eight years since.

What feature that the NFL had removed from Madden do you miss the most? Let us know in the comment section below. And remember, as the new slogan goes, “If it’s in the game, it’s because the NFL allowed it.”


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Michael Straw
Michael Straw is a gamer who just happens to be an experienced journalist. In his near decade-long career, Mike has traveled across the United States to cover some of the biggest events in gaming and sports, including E3, PAX, as well as the NFL and NHL Drafts. His work covering gaming and sports led his content being featured on Fox Sports 1, SI.com and others. He was once the second-ranked player in the world in NHL 09 on Xbox Live, and is a huge pro wrestling junkie.