We finally know how much it mattered that the NFL used a racially-biased method of determining how much money former players would receive under the league’s nearly decade-old concussion settlement. The answer is that so-called race-norming cost former Black players hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a new report.
Those players—646 Black men now retired from the NFL, per the Associated Press—will now receive financial compensation. Those with the most severe cases of dementia are eligible for average payouts of $600,000 each, while others will receive enhanced medical benefits. The end result is that the NFL will pay out millions more than the original $1 billion settlement with former players that was reached back in 2013.
Under that settlement, the league was to compensate former players for cognitive damage done as the result of the head trauma they suffered over years of playing professional football. But the league for years afterward quietly based its monetary payouts on something called race-norming. In order to determine how much each player would receive, the ex-ballers were given cognitive tests to determine how much their brain function had declined. That required establishing a baseline of cognitive ability for each player, which the league set at a lower level for Black players than it did for white ones.
That meant Black players received less money, and in some cases, none, under the settlement because they were assumed to started off with a lower level of cognitive ability than white players and thus suffered less cognitive decline as a result of football.
And if you’re asking, rhetorically at this point, yes, this is all in the same league currently being sued for racial discrimination by three current and former Black coaches, and also the same league currently being sued by a former white head coach who wants to know why only his trove of racist emails got leaked to the media and no one else’s?
The NFL stopped using race norming last October after two former Black players for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Najeh Davenport and Kevin Henry, sued over the practice in 2019. That cleared the way for the retesting of players who had been affected by the race-norming practice and ultimately their financial payouts.