NFL to Stop 'Race-Norming'

Black players' claims of brain injuries will be reviewed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 3, 2021 12:01 AM CDT
NFL to Stop 'Race-Norming'
Ex-NFL players Ken Jenkins, right, and Clarence Vaughn III, center right, along with their wives, Amy Lewis, center, and Brooke Vaughn, left, carry petitions demanding equal treatment in the settlement of concussion claims against the NFL to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on May 14, 2021.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The NFL on Wednesday pledged to halt the use of “race-norming”—which assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive function—in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and review past scores for any potential race bias, the AP reports. The practice made it harder for Black retirees to show a deficit and qualify for an award. The standards were created in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients, but critics faulted the way they were used to determine payouts in the NFL concussion case. Wednesday's announcement comes after a pair of Black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice, medical experts raised concerns, and a group of NFL families last month dropped 50,000 petitions at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia—where the lawsuit had been thrown out by the judge overseeing the settlement.

Senior US District Judge Anita B. Brody later took the unusual step of asking for a report on the issue. Black retirees hope it will include a breakdown of the nearly $800 million in payouts so far by race. They fear the data will never come to light. According to the NFL, a panel of neuropsychologists formed recently to propose a new testing regime to the court includes two female and three Black doctors. “The replacement norms will be applied prospectively and retrospectively for those players who otherwise would have qualified for an award but for the application of race-based norms,” the NFL said in a statement issued Wednesday by spokesman Brian McCarthy. The NFL noted that the norms were developed in medicine “to stop bias in testing, not perpetrate it." But the league appealed some claims filed by Black players if their scores were not adjusted for race.

(More NFL stories.)

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