Chris “Dubby” McFarland proved himself the best Madden NFL 17 player in the country after defeating Eric “Problem” Wright in the grand finals of the Madden Bowl just over a week ago. Less than a week later he was forced to give back $3,000 of his $75,000 prize winnings after violating EA’s Code of Conduct.
EA announced the decision last Wednesday, with Matt Marcou, the competitive gaming commissioner for Madden stating,
“During and directly after the competition, Chris posted multiple message on a personal social media account that referenced inappropriate content. These posts violated our Code of Conduct and don’t represent the values of our organization. We immediately met with Chris to warn him that his posts were inappropriate and could not continue. Unfortunately, additional offensive messages were posted in subsequent days —Chris has since removed them.”
As a result of his behavior, the organization decided to deduct $3,000 from his prize winnings as well as 100 Madden NFL Championship Series points, which players use to qualify for tournaments throughout the year. The “inappropriate” tweets in question have since been deleted, with Marcou adding that it was only because the behavior continued after the warning that EA decided to formally punish the player.
In response to the decision, Dubby admitted he should have been aware that his new positioning post-Madden Bowl would require employing a filter on social media, while also implying that such a filter would destroy “the real Dubby.”
Dubby is no stranger to tweeting offensive things, including racial slurs. Since EA has stepped in you can already see the difference between the late “real Dubby” and his new PG-13 feed. Despite being forced to soften his brand, the Philadelphia native and his Cinderella story will no doubt remain favorites within certain quarters of the competitive Madden community. His bio on EA’s website doesn’t just compliment the player on his passing game, it also explicitly refers to his “electric personality.”
The Madden Bowl in which Dubby competed and won was one of a handful of major Madden tournaments throughout the year. It’s part of a general push to make the leading licensed sports game into a leading esport as well. The Championship Series uses Madden 17's Ultimate Team mode which allows players to hand-craft their own personal team from football talent across the history of the sport. With the continued dominance of the NFL and the popularity of fantasy football alongside it, doubling down on competitive Madden seems like a natural next step for the companies who currently profit off the gridiron.
But video game communities are notoriously idiosyncratic and difficult to manage. Unlike professional football, where the natural order of things is top-down and negotiated between entrenched institutions, most esports have a tenacious grass roots element to them that can be difficult to integrate with the logic and interests of a sprawling company like EA.
Pro players in the NFL are fined all the time for all manner of infractions, ranging from wearing custom cleats to complaining about the officiating in particular game. So while it’s not surprising that EA saw fit to sanction Dubby for what it deemed to be offensive behavior on social media, it is strange that both parties seemed to have to come to an understanding in public long after the Madden Bowl had ended. After all, Dubby’s penchant for colorful trash talk and offensive language were not a secret.
Despite his recent sanctioning, Dubby will still get to compete in the Madden Championship at the end of May. The $500,000 event will mark the end of the current Championship Series as EA prepares the next iteration in its endless Madden series.