The NFL agreed on Wednesday to put an end to the practice of "race-norming" from the assessment of brain injury claims within the $1 billion concussion settlement. The practice made it more difficult for Black retirees to show a decline in brain function as opposed to non-Blacks as it assumed those players started out with a lower cognitive function. Under this new agreement, the league will also review past scores and reassess for any potential racial bias. Meanwhile, the NFL says that a panel of neuropsychologists -- that includes two female and three Black doctors -- will propose a new testing regime to the court.
"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 Wednesday, via the Associated Press.
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The standards under the former practice -- which was created in the 1990s -- were designed to offer appropriate treatment for dementia patients, but critics disliked the way it was utilized to determine payouts within the league's concussion case. More than 2,000 NFL retirees have filed dementia claims but less than 600 have received awards, per the AP.
This change comes off the heels of a whirlwind of criticism, including two former Black players filing a civil lawsuit against the practice, medical experts questioning its functionality, and a contingent of NFL families deploying 50,000 petitions to the Philadelphia federal courthouse last month.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport -- the two players who filed the lawsuit -- were one of the first to raise an issue with this now-former practice. They were denied awards but claimed in the lawsuit that they would have qualified had they been white. Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody dismissed that claim in March. However, Brody did ask for a report on the issue, which Black retirees hope will include a breakdown of nearly $800 million in payouts by race.
To this point, those awards have averaged $516,000 for the 379 players with early-stage dementia, $715,000 for the 207 players with moderate dementia. Ex-players can also pursue payouts for other diagnoses, including Alzheimer's disease.