Controversy Over Fortnite NFL Skins
Fortnite has become a surprising source of controversy after players used the new NFL skins to recreate controversial football players. You read that correctly, gamers were given the ability to customize their characters with NFL skins, and they did something controversial.
So, what is this all about? Is it really that bad? Here’s the scoop.
Explaining Fortnite NFL Skins
Epic Games keeps Fortnite on the cutting edge of pop culture. That’s why they introduced NFL customization options on November 9th, allowing players to represent their favorite squad on the field and the battlefield.
These skins featured customizable colors, football pads, jerseys, and everything else needed to replicate a football player. And replicate is exactly what the Fortnite community did. It wasn’t enough to recreate popular NFL stars, a few players dug deep and went for the most controversial players in NFL history.
That isn’t the only way the skins were used, of course. The NFL skins were released on November 9th and removed from the item shop on November 13th. That’s when the rumors started.
Fortnite NFL Skins and Player Controversy
From OJ to Hernandez, players used all the customization options at their disposal to recreate scenes of controversial NFL stars. Some players got especially creative by using the fireworks backpack in homage to Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand injury. Others used the dog backpack in reference to Michael Vick.
Because players can choose the number on their NFL jerseys, a slew of Colin Kaepernicks were found kneeling on Fortnite’s football field. According to the tweet they were “protesting in peace.” This is especially painful since the Kaepernick story is still ongoing.
Not Just Social Issues
Epic Games has been in business a long time. They should know not to trust players with customization options, especially if there’s an opportunity to make them culturally relevant. I imagine when the NFL saw these tweets, they realized their brand reputation was on the line.
Players could have used the Kaepernick character to spread awareness – but of course – it was used as a joke. O.J. Simpson is still relevant (somehow), and the Fornite community decided it was time to lampoon him as well. Not even deceased players, like Aaron Hernandez, were out of the question.
Epic’s Response Leads to Further Questions
The NFL promotion was cycled out almost as quickly as it arrived. Rumors circulated that the NFL was not happy with Fortnite players opening old wounds. In fact, there’s been little mention of any of this from the NFL or ESPN.
Epic Games’ Nick Chester sent out a tweet claiming that no skin stays in the Fortnite Shop very long and that this is part of the established store cycle. While it’s true that featured store items rotate every two days, it remains to be seen if the NFL jerseys will return.
This is consistent with how we cycle every other skin into the game. No items stay in our store long term.— Nick “Unusual Spending” Chester (@nickchester) November 14, 2018
In my opinion, four days seems like an extremely quick cycle for promotional items, especially when they were selling so well. Only time will tell if the jerseys were supposed to be short-term or if their run was cut short on purpose. Either way, the players that already own these skins aren’t going anywhere.
Controversy Over Fortnite NFL Skins Wrap Up
Let’s face it, when you give players tools to create and customize, they’re going to push those options to their breaking point. This isn’t even the first controversy involving character customization in the past month. SoulCalibur 6 saw character creation abuse at launch.
While Epic Games might not address the elephant in the room, I wouldn’t expect another promotional tie-in any time soon. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait to see if the jerseys return to the Fortnite Shop.