PHILADELPHIA – The NFL on Wednesday pledged to stop the use of “race standardization” – which assumed black players had begun lower cognitive functioning – in settling $ 1 billion in brain injury claims and would review past results for any potential race bias.
The practice made it difficult for black players to show a deficit and qualify for the prize. The standards were designed in medicine in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to patients with dementia, but critics erred in the way they were used to assess legal harm in the NFL case.
The announcement comes Wednesday after a pair of black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice, medical experts expressed concern, and a group of NFL families dropped 50,000 applications in a federal court in Philadelphia last month – where the lawsuit was dismissed by a judge overseeing the settlement.
Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody later took the unusual step of seeking a report on the matter. Black pensioners hope that the analysis of almost 800 million dollars of previous payments by race will be included in that. They fear the data will never come to light.
“Words are cheap. Let’s see what they do,” said former Washington returning Ken Jenkins, whose wife Amy Lewis led the petition on behalf of friends from the NFL who are struggling with cognitive problems. Jenkins, the CEO of insurance, has not had such problems so far.
According to the NFL, a commission of neuropsychologists set up recently to propose a new testing regime to the court includes two women and three black doctors.
“Substitution norms will be applied prospectively and retrospectively to those players who would otherwise qualify for the prize, but for the application of race-based norms,” the NFL said in a statement issued Wednesday by spokesman Brian McCarthy.
Leading players ’lawyer Christopher Seeger, who negotiated the 2013 settlement with the NFL, said earlier this year that he saw no evidence of racial bias in the settlement fund administration. He changed those remarks on Wednesday, apologizing for any pain the program caused.
“I’m sorry for the pain this episode inflicted on former Black players and their families. Ultimately, this solution only works if former players believe in it, and my goal is to restore their trust and ensure the NFL is fully accountable,” Seeger said. said in a statement.
The NFL noted that norms were developed in medicine “to prevent bias in testing, not to perform it.”
Both Seeger and the NFL say the practice was never mandatory, but was left to the discretion of the doctors participating in the program. However, the NFL has complained about some demands made by Black players if their results are not race-appropriate.
“If it weren’t for the wives who infuriated all the bureaucracies, they would never have come,” Jenkins said of the attention being paid to the issue, three years after the lawyers of the former Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport say they were the first to launch it.
Binary race norms, when used in testing, assume that black patients begin to have poorer cognitive functioning than whites and other non-blacks. This makes it difficult for them to show deficits and qualify for the award. Henry and Davenport, for example, were denied the prizes but would qualify to be white, according to their lawsuit, which Brody dismissed in March, calling it an improper “collateral attack” on the settlement. They appealed the verdict.
More than 2,000 NFL retirees have applied for dementia, but less than 600 have received awards, according to the latest report. More than half of all NFL retirees are black, say lawyers involved in the lawsuit.
So far, awards have averaged $ 516,000 for 379 players with early-stage dementia and more than $ 715,000 for 207 players with moderate dementia. Retirees can also claim payments for Alzheimer’s disease and several other diagnoses. The settlement ended thousands of lawsuits accusing the NFL of long hiding what it knew about the link between a concussion and a traumatic brain injury.