NFL promises to discontinue practice that assumes Black players have a lower brain function

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The NFL on Wednesday promised to end "race-norming," a practice that assumed Black players start out with lower cognitive abilities than white players.

Retired NFL player Najeh Davenport filed a lawsuit accusing the league of using racist practices to distribute awards for brain-injury claims (archive image).
Retired NFL player Najeh Davenport filed a lawsuit accusing the league of using racist practices to distribute awards for brain-injury claims (archive image).  © IMAGO / UPI Photo

The announcement came after two Black former NFL players, Najeh Davenport (42) and Kevin Henry (52), filed a lawsuit against the league, the Associated Press reported.

The players accused the NFL of using racist practices to distribute settlement money for brain injury claims.

Because of "race-norming," Black players had to present greater evidence of damage than their white counterparts – because they were assumed to have lower cognitive levels than non-Black players to begin with.

NBA: Red-hot Suns win fifteen straight by routing the Knicks in NYC
NBA NBA: Red-hot Suns win fifteen straight by routing the Knicks in NYC

Families of other NFL players delivered 50,000 petitions to the Philadelphia courthouse, prompting a US district judge to call for a closer investigation of the lawsuit, which had been dropped by the judge overseeing the settlement.

Reports show that retired Black players have filed about 2,000 claims for brain injury settlements, but only about 30% have actually received compensation. By contrast, Black players make up more than half of all NFL retirees.

Players' attorney apologizes for overlooking racial biases

The brain scans of NFL hall of famer Joe DeLamielleure, who was diagnosed with CTE, the brain injury that is affecting so many former players.
The brain scans of NFL hall of famer Joe DeLamielleure, who was diagnosed with CTE, the brain injury that is affecting so many former players.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The players and families hope the report will give a closer indication of the $800 million in payouts by race.

Attorney Christopher Seeger, who negotiated the original 2013 settlement, previously said he saw no evidence of racial bias, but he has now issued an apology: "I am sorry for the pain this episode has caused Black former players and their families. Ultimately, this settlement only works if former players believe in it, and my goal is to regain their trust and ensure the NFL is fully held to account."

The NFL said it had gathered several neuropsychologists to develop new testing measures. The panel reportedly consists of two female and three Black doctors.

NBA: T'Wolves win marathon game and spoil return of Sixers superstar
NBA NBA: T'Wolves win marathon game and spoil return of Sixers superstar

"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," a league statement read.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

More on the topic NFL: