NFL “Race-Norming” Case Amended As Judge Resets The Clock For Retired Players To Collect Awards For Mental Impairment

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A change is coming in the NFL’s $1 billion concussion settlement as retired Black players can attempt retesting or have their claims rescored.

A judge approved a revised plan that opened up the former players to compensation opportunities on Friday.

Under a revised plan, the players have fought to eliminate racial bias in the testing and payout formula for concussion-related mental illness.

Race-Norming

Thousands of retired NFL players have agreed with the league to end race-based adjustments in dementia testing.

The league has been in hot water over the alleged “race-norming” in dementia testing. The practice assumes that Black people start at a lower level of cognition, meaning their tests for signs of mental decline have to show lower scores than those of whites for Blacks to be assessed as suffering from impairment. The former players’ claims of mental health issues that turned them away from the negotiating table last year can now potentially be reversed.

According to reports, only 3 in 10 dementia claims have been paid to date by the NFL. The other one-third rejected, while the remainder hovers in uncertainty as the claims process is complicated and layered through administration, audits, medical and legal procedures.

Check The Score

The NFL uses a binary scoring system for dementia testing. Developed by neurologists in the 1990s, the system uses a different set of rules for Black people, supposedly as an initial unsophisticated method to factor the social and economic factors of the patient.

The NFL faces a potential of over $100 million or more to the NFL’s expenses to pay through its concussion fund. According to reports, dementia awards average about $600,000 currently.

About $800 million has been paid out thus far, with half of the payouts going to dementia claims.

In addition, the settlement will provide financial awards to ex-players with illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

What About CTE?

However, the settlement does not cover the hot-button health issue in the NFL, which is undoubtedly CTE. Payouts are only available to families of men diagnosed with it posthumously — a definitive CTE diagnosis can be made only after death — before April 2015, a deadline set to avoid incentivizing suicides.

The NFL is now addressing use of “race-norming.” According to reports, doctors have reported that they have been coerced into race-norming such players’ cognitive evaluation scores.

According to reports, over 3,300 former players or family members seek payouts for their respective brain injuries, which they feel are connected to their playing days.

More than 2,000 former NFL players are asking for an award for their dementia, which is in varying stages of severity.

Black By Popular Demand

The NFL has not admitted any wrongdoing. However, a new testing formula will be developed with input from experts hired by both the player’s counsel and the NFL.

The new decision follows months of closed-door negotiations between the NFL, class counsel for the retired players, and lawyers for two Black players.

The vast majority of the league’s players are Black. Some 70 percent of the active players and more than 60 percent of the living retirees are African-American; adjusting to the race-based concussion assessments is estimated to be costly for the NFL.

Unfortunately, a racial breakdown of payouts has never been made public, and there is no indication it ever will. As the NFL addresses its many discrepancies on the racial front, this latest development is a bread crumb in the trail leading to true diversity and inclusion.


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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.