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.
Earlier this year, ABC News reported on a lawsuit against the NFL brought by two Black
former players, who alleged the league used “race-norming” to give smaller payouts for
dementia to Black athletes as part of a $1 billion settlement over traumatic brain
injuries. The horrific and scientifically inaccurate logic for the disparate payouts broke
down to the following: Because Black players were assumed to start at a lower level of
cognitive functioning than white players, they would need to show more serious
cognitive declines than white players to be compensated similarly for their head injuries.
The lawsuit alleged the NFL was engaged in racial discrimination.
Back then, the NFL claimed that there was “no merit to the claim of discrimination,”
but the league said Wednesday it will halt race-norming following the lawsuit. “Everyone
agrees race-based norms should be replaced, but no off-the-shelf alternative exists, and
that’s why these experts are working to solve this decades-old issue,” an NFL
spokesperson told the AP. “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.”
AP reports the lawsuit was thrown out by the federal judge in the case, who “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.”
The NFL wasn’t alone in defending the policy: Christopher Seeger, the attorney
representing ex-players in a major concussion settlement negotiation, said in March that
his law firm had “investigated this issue” and did not find “any evidence of racial bias in
the settlement program.” But in a Nightline segment running Wednesday night, Seeger
issued a mea culpa. “I was wrong,” he said. “I didn’t have a full appreciation of the scope
of the problem. You think you know everything. Sometimes you don’t. But the closer I
looked, the more I realized that this had to go.”
“I’m really sorry that anybody, any client of mine in this program, has been made to feel
that way,” he added. “That is a big mistake. It was a failure of the system. I’m a part of
that. But I’m also a part of getting it fixed.”