On Wednesday, the NFL pledged to stop the use of “racial norms” that assumed black players started out with lower cognitive function in the $ 1 billion brain injury claim settlement and review previous scores for possible biases. racial.
The practice made it more difficult for black retirees to show a deficit and qualify for an award. The standards were created in the 1990s in the hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients, but critics criticized the way they were used to determine payouts in the NFL’s 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 last month a group of NFL families withdrew 50,000 petitions in federal court in Philadelphia. , where the judge overseeing the lawsuit had dismissed the lawsuit. settlement.
Later, Judge Anita B Brody took the unusual step of requesting a report on the matter. Black retirees expect it to include a breakdown of the nearly $ 800 million in payments so far by race. They fear the data will never come out.
Words are cheap. Let’s see what they do, ”said former Washington running back Ken Jenkins, whose wife Amy Lewis led the petition campaign on behalf of retired NFL players struggling with cognitive problems. Jenkins, an insurance executive, has been saved so far.
According to the NFL, a panel of neuropsychologists that was recently formed to propose a new testing regimen to the court includes two women and three black doctors.
“The replacement rules will apply prospectively and retrospectively to those players who would otherwise have qualified for an award were it not for the application of rules based on race,” the NFL said in a statement issued Wednesday by spokesman Brian McCarthy. .
The lead players’ attorney, Christopher Seeger, who negotiated the 2013 deal with the NFL, said earlier this year that he had not seen any evidence of racial bias in the management of the settlement fund. He amended those comments Wednesday and apologized for any pain the show caused.
“I am sorry for the pain this episode has caused to former black players and their families. Ultimately, this agreement only works if former players believe in it, and my goal is to regain their trust and ensure that the NFL is held accountable, ”Seeger said in a statement.
The NFL noted that the standards were developed in medicine “to stop testing bias, not to perpetrate it.” And both Seeger and the league said the practice was never mandatory, but was left to the discretion of the doctors participating in the conciliation program.
However, the NFL appealed some claims filed by black players if their scores were not adjusted for race.
“If it hadn’t been for the wives, who were enraged by all the bureaucracy involved, it never would have happened,” Jenkins said of the attention being paid to the issue, three years after attorneys for former Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport say they raised it first.
Binary race norms, when used in testing, assume that black patients start out with worse cognitive function than whites and non-blacks. That makes it more difficult for them to show a deficit and qualify for an award. Henry and Davenport, for example, were denied awards but would have qualified had they been targeted, according to their lawsuit, which Brody dismissed in March, calling it an improper “collateral attack” on the settlement. They have appealed the sentence.
More than 2,000 NFL retirees have filed dementia claims, but fewer than 600 have received awards, according to the most recent report. More than half of all NFL retirees are black, according to the attorneys involved in the litigation.
Prizes so far have averaged $ 516,000 for the 379 players with early-stage dementia and $ 715,000 for the 207 players with moderate dementia. Retirees can also seek payments for Alzheimer’s disease and some other diagnoses. The settlement ended thousands of lawsuits that accused the NFL of hiding for a long time what it knew about the link between concussions and traumatic brain injury.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism