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NFL to stop racial bias when settling concussion lawsuits

June 03, 2021

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NFL to stop racial bias when settling concussion lawsuits

The NFL has said that it will stop using a race-based formula which assumes black players have a lower cognitive function than their white counterparts, when settling concussion lawsuits.

The practice is known as “race norming” and assumed that black players started out with a lower cognitive function, this resulted in black players finding it harder to show a detriment as it was already assumed their cognitive function was lower than white players and was therefore harder for black players to qualify for a settlement award. Former player Ken Jenkins said “This is classic systemic racism. Just because I'm black, I wasn't born with fewer brain cells.”

Over 2000 former players have launched claims but less than 600 have received pay-outs. Two who were refused pay-outs under a $1billion brain injuries scheme are Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport who launched a civil lawsuit over the race-norming. This lawsuit was thrown out and a settlement negotiation ordered before the judge called for a full report on race-norming, with players hoping that this will include a breakdown of all pay-outs by race.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said “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.” Race-norming was first established in the 1990’s after a study of a small number of black people in San Diego concluded that the group had lower cognitive function than the average white person but this study was not representative of black people today or of the rest of the country in the 1990’s.   

You can read the NFL statement here.

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