NFL says it will stop the practice of 'race-norming' claims for brain injury settlements

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Posted at 2:10 PM, Jun 03, 2021

PHILADELPHIA — The NFL is pledging to halt the use of "race-norming" in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and to review Black claims for any potential racial bias.

"Race-norming" assumed that Black players started out with lower cognitive function than white players. As a result, the practice made it harder for Black players to show that their cognitive function had decreased and made it more difficult for them to qualify for settlement funds.

Wednesday's announcement came after a pair of Black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice and NFL families dropped 50,000 petitions at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.

"The replacement norms will be applied prospectively and retrospectively for those players who otherwise would have qualified for an award but for the application of race-based norms," the NFL said in a statement issued to the Associated Press Wednesday by spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Lead players lawyer Christopher Seeger says he's sorry for any pain caused to Black players.

A U.S. District Judge took the unusual step of asking for a report on the issue, which Black retirees hope will include a breakdown of the $800 million in payments made by the NFL thus far by race.

In 2013, the NFL settled a lawsuit with former players who alleged the league wasn't doing enough to care for players who had suffered traumatic brain injuries during their playing days. At the time of the settlement, the league agreed to pay up to $3 million for former players who were diagnosed with dementia. The Associated Press reports that the average award for dementia tops $500,000.

A group of neuropsychologists is now studying the issue for the judge overseeing the settlement fund.