Leagues and Governing Bodies

Joint proposal filed to scrap race as factor in NFL concussion settlement

Former NFLer Najeh Davenport sued the NFL for allegedly using race-based methods to evaluate dementia claimsGETTY IMAGES

The NFL and lawyers representing Black players who "accused the league of discrimination" filed a joint proposal that will "scrap the use of a race-based method to evaluate dementia claims made by former players in the league’s concussion settlement," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The agreement was "expected to be filed under seal, pending a review" by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, but a copy of the agreement was "posted on the court’s website Wednesday afternoon." In the document, the NFL and other parties state that “no race norms or race demographic estimates -- whether Black or White -- shall be used in the settlement program going forward,” and that "no party can appeal claims based on the grounds of race or the use of race norms." Additionally, a panel of experts will "develop new norms that will apply to all future neuropsychological tests under the program, all claims that have not yet been ruled on, and all claims that are currently on appeal in which race norms or race demographic estimates may be at issue." The new method will "be used to rescore claims and diagnoses and could potentially result in players receiving a payout for the first time, or a larger payout than originally estimated." The retrospective rescoring will "apply to cases where no impairment was determined, but Black race norms were applied during the player’s neuropsychological test; all dementia claims that were denied and had Black race norms applied; or claims that were denied or reduced because the doctor did not apply Black race norms" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/21).

LOOKING BACK: CBS’ Nate Burleson: “The reason why this is upsetting is because this dates back to the inception of the league where they said because of cognitive learning Black players weren't smart enough to play the quarterback position.” Burleson noted there also is a “financial aspect” because the NFL is “75% black so if you deny more African-Americans you have to shell out less money.” CBS’ Gayle King: “It’s so insulting on so many levels” (“CBS Mornings,” 10/21). NBC’s Stephanie Gosk said “even though the process” of race norming was “originally agreed upon by the NFL and the players' lawyers, many players say they didn't realize" (“Today,” NBC, 10/20).

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