The NFL has said it will stop settling concussion lawsuits using a race-based formula that assumes black players have a lower level of cognitive function.
America’s top-flight football league also pledged to review previous brain injury claims that have been settled via the practice known as race-norming.
When calculating payouts from brain injury settlements, the NFL previously assumed Black players had lower cognitive function as a starting point.
According to the Associated Press’ Maryclaire Dale, the league has pledged to end such “race-norming” and to review past settlement cases for potential bias. Former Black players found it more difficult to meet the requirements for the payments as a result of these practices.
In a statement, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, “The replacement norms will be applied prospectively and retrospectively for those players who would have otherwise qualified for an award but for the application of race-based norms.”
Dale noted that the announcement comes in the wake of a civil rights lawsuit, medical experts’ concerns, and 50,000 petition signatures from NFL families. Three Black doctors and two female doctors will be part of a recent panel of neuropsychologists who will propose a new testing regime, according to the NFL.
The NFL and retired players reached a $765 million settlement in 2013 over concussion-related brain injuries. The plan was to compensate and pay medical bills for former players who developed dementia, depression, or Alzheimer’s disease as a result of repeated head injuries sustained while playing football, according to the plan.
More than 4,500 former players had filed a lawsuit against the league, accusing it of withholding concussion information and profiting from the hits that caused the injuries.
According to Dale, race norms used in cognitive tests conducted for the NFL to determine which former players would receive compensation as part of the settlement made it “harder for [Black players] to show a deficit and qualify for an award” than non-Black players.
More than 2,000 former players have filed dementia claims, but only about 600 have received compensation, according to Dale.