The NFL has been caught flat-footed after a practice called “race-norming” was exposed to the public nearly two years ago. RedState originally reported on the issue in June of 2021.
The practice of “race-norming” is the assumption that Black players have a “lower cognitive function” base, and thus settlements on brain injury claims are calculated by adjusting for race. The result has been to make it harder for Black players to prove that they have been cognitively injured during the execution of their NFL career.
If the practice sounds disturbing to you, congratulations. You’re a decent human being.
A larger public outcry was sparked when two former players sued the NFL for their policy of “race-norming” to determine which retirees were entitled to compensation from a $1 billion concussion settlement. The NFL uses medical examinations and a battery of tests to decide which retired players have been cognitively injured as a direct result of their time in professional sports. Obviously, “race-norming” gives the house better odds, and it is clear the NFL benefits from doing everything possible to restrict payouts to injured players.
Now, two years later, hundreds of former players have had their medical tests “rescored” to correct the egregious bias, meaning a new slate of payments will be going out to men formerly denied compensation.
The newly approved payouts, announced in a report Friday, are a victory for NFL families in the decade-long legal saga over concussions. The 2020 lawsuit unearthed the fact the dementia tests were being “race-normed” — adjusted due to assumptions that Black people have a lower cognitive baseline score. Changes to the settlement made last year are meant to make the tests race-blind.
The new results will add millions to the NFL’s payouts for concussion-linked brain injuries. A league spokesman did not return a phone call Friday or respond to emails sent in recent weeks seeking comment on the rescoring.
Tests were reconfigured for 646 Black retirees, with nearly half qualifying for dementia compensation. The testing has put the awards on a grading scale.
Sixty-one are classified as having early to moderate dementia, with average awards topping $600,000; nearly 250 more have milder dementia and will get up to $35,000 in enhanced medical testing and treatment, according to the claims administrator’s report.
There are some worries that not everyone who was originally denied their claims knows that they can now apply to be rescored. Some former players have simply dropped off the grid, succumbing to addiction, homelessness or simply wishing to be left alone. Advocates on behalf of the injured say they will continue to make every effort to make sure no one is left behind.
The league’s tally just passed $1 billion in approved claims. However, appeals and audits mean actual payouts lag behind that number and now stand at about $916 million. Payouts include awards for four other compensable diagnoses: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and deaths before April 2015 involving CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
As reviewers tackle the thornier dementia claims, the process has slowed and audits and appeals intensified.
“Their mantra is deny, deny, delay until you die,” said James Pruitt, 58, a wide receiver who played for Indianapolis and Miami from 1986 to 1991.
Shoutout to AP’s MaryClaire Dale, who has been one of the lone reporters pursuing this story.