Marco van Basten, a 55-year-old soccer legend who played for several high-profile teams before becoming a manager and professional sports pundit, has been pulled from FIFA 20 after saying the Nazi slogan “sieg heil” live on TV.
Van Basten was commenting on a game on November 23 when he said the phrase, which means ”hail victory” in German and is a common Nazi catchphrase, off camera. Van Basten apologized, but the damage was done. Broadcasters suspended him from his job for a week and publisher EA chose to “suspend” him in FIFA 20, which was released in September, “until further notice.”
Van Basten was available as a player in FIFA 20’s Ultimate Team Mode which allows players to build their own dream team from a pool of soccer legends. Until he said “sieg heil” on live TV, players could pick three different forms of Van Basten from three different periods in his career.
As demonstrated by YouTuber MattHDGamer in a Monday video, when players logged into FIFA 20’s Ultimate Team Mode a message from EA said, "We are aware of the recent comments made by Marco van Basten.”
”We have an expectation that our commitment to equality and diversity is upheld across our game,” the message reads. “As such, we will suspend Marco van Basten Icon items from being available in packs, SBCs and FUT Draft until further notice."
Van Basten’s three different iterations are no longer generating in FIFA 20, but players who already had him can use him and he’s available to trade. Perversely, the price of Van Basten on FIFA 20’s internal market spiked after his suspension.
In an emailed statement, an EA spokeperson echoed the in-game message to players, adding that the publisher was "disappointed" in Van Basten's comments. "We will share an update when he is available in game again," the statement said.
Van Basten is suspended from broadcasting until December 7, with pay, but he’s donating his wages to the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation. Saying “sieg heil” is never a good look, and Van Basten’s comments came at an especially delicate time. That weekend, players in the Netherlands top soccer divisions agreed to not play the first minute of the game as a protest against racism.
Update: This article was updated with comment from EA.