Now, when players boot up FIFA 20 and open the Ultimate Team menu — a mode that allows players to collect former greats to form a fantasy all-star team — they will be greeted with a short prompt from EA that reads, “We are aware of the recent comments made by Marco van Basten. We have an expectation that our commitment to quality and diversity is upheld across our game. As such, we will suspend Marco van Basten icon items from being available in Packs, SBCs and FUT Draft until further notice. Stay tuned for further updates.”
EA’s decision to delete him from the title, at least temporarily, comes a month after van Basten’s comment, which was said off-camera while studio mics where still on. Fox Sports suspended him from the channel last month and donated a week’s worth of his wages to the Netherlands Institute of War Documentation.
Racism in the soccer world has been a recurring and visible issue in the last few months. In September, Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham faced racist harassment online after missing a penalty in the Super Cup.
Van Basten publicly apologized later during the same TV segment and said that his comment was meant to mock Heracles manager Frank Wormuth’s German accent. Fox has since issued an official statement calling his choice of words “stupid and inappropriate.”
"I didn’t mean to shock people, I just wanted to ridicule Hans’ German, but I’m sorry,” he said a week into his suspension from the broadcast network.
The removal of athlete characters from blockbuster games following real-life controversies isn’t uncommon in the video game industry. Ray Rice was pulled from Madden NFL 15 and Kareem Hunt was taken out of Madden NFL 19 after videos surfaced of both football players committing domestic abuse.
Last year, Cristiano Ronaldo was removed from the cover image and menus of FIFA 19, forcing EA to find new faces for its marketing direction. While EA officially stated that this was to coincide with a rebranding for the UEFA Champions League, this change nonetheless came shortly after Ronaldo faced sexual assault accusations and a tax evasion fine. His character model, however, wasn’t removed from the actual game like van Basten’s.
As of publication EA had not responded to a request for comment, and there is no confirmation on whether van Basten will be reinstated in FIFA 20 at a later date.