NFL halting ‘race-norming’ that lessened black players’ brain injuries

The NFL’s lead attorney Chris Seeger (left) said he was ‘sorry for the pain’ that the ‘race-norming’ practice caused to black former players (Pictures: AP/Getty Images)

The National Football League (NFL) has vowed to stop its controversial ‘race-norming’ practice which assumed that black players start with lower cognitive function. The pledge is part of a $1billion settlement over traumatic brain injuries.

Race-norming presumed that black players’ cognitive functioning started at a lower level than white players, meaning black players needed to show more serious brain declines than their counterparts in order to receive similar compensation for head injuries.

Initiated in the 1990s, the policy was designed to provide more appropriate treatment to dementia sufferers. But it was also used to determine payouts in the NFL concussion case and made it more difficult for retired black players to qualify for awards.

The NFL’s pledge on Wednesday came after two black players filed a civil rights lawsuit against the league over race-norming.

‘We are committed to eliminating race-based norms in the program and more broadly in the neuropsychological community,’ the NFL stated.

The NFL’s lead attorney Chris Seeger stated he was ‘sorry for the pain this episode has caused black former players and their families’.

‘Ultimately, this settlement only works if former players believe in it, and my goal is to regain their trust and ensure the NFL is fully held to account,’ he said.

The NFL claimed that there was no discrimination in carrying out the 2017 settlement that has paid out over $800million to more than 1,000 former players diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive diseases. However, US District Judge Anita Brody was so concerned when race-norming came to light that she ordered a mediator to investigate the matter.

A panel of neuropsychologists with three black and two female doctors was recently convened to come up with a new testing regime to present to the court, according to the NFL.

‘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,’ NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy stated.

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