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NFL Drops Racial Bias in Concussion Lawsuits



The NFL, America’s top-flight football league, will stop settling concussion claims based on a race-based formula. This formula assumes that black football players have lower cognitive function than white people. Moreover, they also promised to review previous brain injury suits that have been settled through “race norming.”

The Majority of NFL Retirees are Black

Two black NFL players have filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice of race norming. This is a no-brainer because 57.5% of the prominent football league are black players. This means that more than half of NFL retirees are black. 

Moreover, although the judge tossed the civil lawsuit, there was still a call for a full report on the racial bias allegations. Race norming involves the football league comparing a given player’s cognitive test scores with a supposed norm for his demographic group. Through this methodology, there was an assumption that black players possess a lower level of cognitive function than the average white football player.

According to the University of California’s neurology professor, Katherine Possin, “That’s essentially systematic racism in determining these payouts.”

America’s Major Football League Faces Criticism

One of the retired black players involved in the litigation is Ken Jenkins. He said to the Hill, “This is classic systemic racism. Just because I’m Black, I wasn’t born with fewer brain cells.”

On the NFL’s part, they defended the practice in the past because it “relied on widely accepted and long-established cognitive tests and scoring methodologies”. The formula was first established in the 1990s and was used to make dementia payouts. However, critics state that the small sample of black people in San Diego used for the initial study did not fully represent the black people in today’s US. 

Furthermore, the football league insisted that the racial norming standard was not mandatory. They argued that the doctors participating in the compensation programme had the freedom to choose whether to apply it. However, many clinicians denied such claims. They said that the programme manual did not provide such flexibility.

NFL Pledges to Make Changes

The lead lawyer representing former NFL players in settlement negotiations is Christopher Seeger. Seeger apologized for his past comments that he had “not seen any evidence of racial bias” in the programme. He further stated that he regretted his “poor choice of words” and lack of “a full appreciation of the problem.”

It is also important to note that last year, the football league committed $250 million to social justice initiatives. Aside from that, you can also find slogans like” End Racism” in the end zones in its arenas. NFL players are also allowed to wear slogans on football gear and even to stand in moments of unity before the games.  

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