Though ostensibly prestigious, the honor of being named a Madden NFL cover athlete has proven perilous. Several athletes have fallen victim to the so-called "Madden Curse," which sees their careers slide after gracing the boxes of Electronic Arts' football game. After being beset by a string of injuries, 2007 cover athlete Shaun Alexander (pictured) went from the NFL's Most Valuable Player to being a back-up running back in just two years. Likewise, 2004 cover athlete Michael Vick missed most of the 2004 season due to a leg injury--and was subsequently suspended from the NFL after being convicted on a series of gambling and dogfighting-related felonies in 2007.
Some fans believe in the "Madden Curse" so strongly that they've started online petitions to dissuade players from accepting EA's offer, which reportedly pays between $100,000 and $200,000. Even EA Sports president Peter Moore admits "there's a grain of truth to the Madden Curse." Speaking with Bloomberg news service, the executive said, "When you look back at the last five, six years, it's a little weird how weird things have happened to guys who are on the front cover.''
Ironically, Moore's comments came in the same interview in which he revealed that EA is toying with the idea of having players pay EA for the privilege of being on the Madden box. "I bet you can find 50 players that would say, 'I'd pay good money,'" he said.
EA will apparently sweeten the pot--and generate some positive PR for the NFL monopoly holder--by donating the funds to the United Way, the NFL's charity of choice. "The League does a lot of work with [players] to make them realize how lucky they are and a lot of them have come out of poor circumstances and they give back," explained Moore.
However, don't expect cash-flush quarterbacks to start busting out their bankrolls just yet. Moore said the option is still being mulled by EA's vast marketing department, and no decision will be made "anytime soon."