The NFL has agreed to end race-based adjustments in dementia testing that made it difficult for Black players to qualify for monetary awards in their settlement of concussion claims.
According to reports, the testing plan was revised following public outrage over the use of race-norming, which only came to light after two NFL players filed a civil lawsuit against it in 2019.
If NFL did not make the adjustments, hundreds of Black players who have dementia might not have been qualified to win awards from anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million.
Retired Black players can get retested
With the revised testing plan, Black players now have the opportunity to have their tests rescored. They may also undergo a new cognitive test.
"No race norms or race demographic estimates - whether Black or white - shall be used in the settlement program going forward," the settlement revealed via the Huffington Post.
However, the proposal needs to be approved by a judge before it can take effect. Since the vast majority of active players and retirees at the NFL are Black, the changes are expected to be significant.
As of press writing, the NFL has already paid $821 million for five types of brain injuries, including Parkinson's disease, early and advanced dementia, and ALS.
What is race-norming?
According to CBC, race-norming assumes that Black players start with lower cognitive function, making it harder to show they suffer from a mental deficit linked to the sport. Black NFL retirees who didn't qualify for settlement benefits will now have the chance to revisit their case.
Black NFL players' lawsuit dismissed, mediation encouraged
NFL lawyer Brad Karp said that he's looking forward to the court's immediate approval of the agreement because it will ensure diagnostic accuracy and fairness in the concussion settlement.
Earlier this year, Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport sued the NFL for explicitly and deliberately discriminating against Black players taking dementia-related claims.
However, the NFL has repeatedly dismissed the lawsuit and even called it entirely misguided. A month later, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit that challenged race-norming in dementia tests for retired NFL players.
At the time, the judge ordered the NFL and the lead lawyer in the $1 billion settlement to resolve the issue through mediation, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Three months later, the NFL agreed to put an end to the controversial race-norming in concussion settlement with retired players. NFL attorney Chris Seeger said that they are committed to eliminating race-based norms in the program. He also apologized to the retired players and their families for any pain that they had caused.
"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 via the Washington Post.
Who is Kevin Henry, Najeh Davenport?
Henry is a former American football defensive lineman who played eight seasons in the NFL for Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to his stint with the NFL, Henry played football for the Mississippi State University.
Davenport, on the other hand, was a former running back in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers drafted him in 2002, and he also played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts.