NFL Says “No Mas” to Race-Norming

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last Wednesday, the NFL agreed and pledged to stop using the concept of “race-norming” — a term used to assume that players of color started out with lower cognitive functioning —– as part of a $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and to review any past scores for any potential racial bias.

The practice, which was originally designed in medicine during the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatments to patients who lived with dementia, failed to correctly assess legal damages in the case of the NFL, which would result make more difficulty for Black players to show a deficit and qualify for an award.

The announcement from last week was spurned by a pair of Black players after they had filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice, medical experts had raised concerns, and a group of NFL families had dropped 50,000 petitions in May at the federal courthouse where the lawsuit had been thrown out by the judge overseeing the statement in Philadelphia.

A senior U.S. District Judge later would take a rather unusual step in the case by asking for a report to support the claim. Black retired players hope that the report will include details of payouts by race summing up to a total of nearly $800 million, but are fearful that the data may not see the light.

Overall, more than 2000 NFL retired players have filed dementia claims against the league, but fewer than 600 have received rewards.

Dementia is a post-career problem for NFL players, and race-norming will no longer contribute to that factor.