On the Death of John Madden, EA Madden, and Common Sense

Madden21

The death of John Madden reminded me of why I am here.

It was the summer of 2020, and I was still drawing editorial sports cartoons for the Los Angeles Times.

American cities were still burning and rioters looting when EA Sports released Madden21. The popular and massively profitable video game was released on August 28th, just two weeks before the NFL was to resume a full schedule.

Madden21 was riddled with programming errors, like players who couldn’t be tackled, or players scoring touchdowns by downing a ball in their own end zone. The game also contained new “social justice” messaging and that messaging was purposeful.

In Madden21, Colin Kaepernick was back. Kaepernick was a selectable player even though he had been out of the league for years. Players could “take a knee” after scoring touchdowns. Players could raise a fist. The theater of the absurd had now invaded Madden Football.

Following the release of Madden21, the NFL was about to begin its season with a full schedule. You might assume that as an “editorial” sports cartoonist I would and could “editorialize” on the Madden21 woke programming change. You’d be right about “would,” you’d be wrong about the “could.”

I drew a cartoon mocking the new woke Madden21 and submitted it to my editors. I saw no controversy and assumed it would make it to print.  After all, I was an editorial cartoonist, and editorializing was my “job.”  I was wrong.

The cartoon passed through assistant editors to an editor with a final say. That final word, was “No.” I was told that my cartoon was sending the wrong message. NFL players were protesting to “end racism” and it wouldn’t print. I was sending the wrong message.

I have little doubt that it wasn’t about being “insensitive” to grown men. It was about the inevitable blowback editors would get from cohorts of disaffected interns. Interns who 6 months prior were yelling at professors for misgendering a woman (who the day before, was a guy) would crash through the publisher’s door demanding resignations.

In 2019, an editor emailed me about a reader complaint.  He had fielded an objection about a cartoon I had done. The subject was Lynn Swann.  Lynn Swann is black. At the time, Swann, a former USC and NFL star, was the barely-competent USC Athletic Director. Because his name was “Swann” I cartooned him as, yes, a black swan. A reader (or readers) thought that my cartoon was racist. Cartooning a human as a metaphorical animal isn’t all that unusual. However, there are millions of easily offended people and someone was super offended by a black swan. My editor asked me why I drew Swann as a black swan.

I explained that Swann’s name was, coincidently, Swann. I further explained that black swans exist in nature.  Thus, me, the editorial cartoonist, depicting a Black man named Swann as a black swan seemed pretty obvious.  I asked rhetorically – if I had depicted him as a white swan wouldn’t that be… racist? He backed me up, and that was the end of it. That was before 2020 and George Floyd and the NFL prostrating at the Colin Kaepernick alter.

In 2018, Andrew Sullivan wrote an article titled “We All Live on Campus Now”. It critiques the infestation of the intolerant campus mobsters who are in perpetual offended mode. They’ve graduated and moved into the workforce. Former student harpies are now employed harpies demanding scalps for any imagined slight. That was 2018. It’s only gotten worse.

Former New York Times editor Bari Weiss is Jewish, left of center, and gay. She calls herself a progressive. She left the New York Times because leftists took over the “paper of record.” She left because the editors no longer ran the Times, the newsroom bullies did. Editors were and remain terrified of 25-year-olds with a keyboard and a TikTok account. Rather than fire them en masse, the editors allowed a pack of brats to run the show. Weiss explained that a story she wrote about anti-Semitism wasn’t the “right” narrative. Her article discussed leftist anti-Semitism, and that wasn’t allowed at the Times. Wrong narrative. The story was spiked, never mind that it was sourced and accurate.

The rejection of my Madden21 cartoon was a harbinger. By the start of 2021, I knew my days were numbered. I saw subjects/stories that I couldn’t touch because a group or clique or just one person might be offended. Gone were the days when one could tell a screaming harpy to “grow up.”

By May 2021, I had run out of ideas that I thought the LA Times would print. Editorial cartoons are meant to be provocative, to elicit a reaction — and often it’s a negative reaction. In 2019, I drew several cartoons critical of Colin Kaepernick that, in retrospect, would have no chance of making it to print in The Times in 2021.

Since joining RedState, I’ve drawn mostly political and cultural cartoons. I’ve gained friends. Lost others. One friend I’ve known for decades stopped speaking to me and stopped following me on Twitter. A woman I dated in high school dropped a note to me: “God what happened to you?”

The nuts are now running the asylum.