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NFL pledges to halt ‘racist race-norming’ practices used against former black players


The newest ugly words making its’ way around the NFL this week is “race norming” as the league steps forward to denounce a racist practice they had willingly engaged in for years.

The NFL announced that it was doing away with race-norming practices that harmed former Black players who were part of the billion-dollar concussion settlement with the league. The practice of “race norming” assumes a lower cognitive baseline for Black players and has been applied as the league considers claims in its billion-dollar concussion settlement.

This unfathomable action was occurring in the year 2021, when black lives were supposed to matter, per NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who recorded a video condemning systemic racism. He and the owners, who are almost all white, sat back and silently watched this play out for years. Yes, after former players played their hearts out and literally left it all on the field, many found themselves at home with their families suffering from the ills of their former profession. Instead of being given the help and monetary support they were entitled to receive for illness that was brought on by their occupation, their illness was being judged by the color of their skin and the absurd reasoning that blacks have a lower cognitive function, and any health issues should be devalued when looking at the illnesses they were suffering from having played the game. The binary race norms assumed that Blacks start with worse cognitive function than whites and other non-Blacks. That makes it harder for them to show a deficit and qualify for an award.

A sportswriter said that this should be added to the NFL’s dreadful track record of institutional racism, and SPORTLIGHT agrees. We can all point to year after year as we watch qualified black coaches being passed over for head coach positions with the NFL teams, only to see lesser qualified candidates that look like the owners get the interviews and the positions without much effort. Front office executives such as Presidents and team coordinators also do not stand a chance. In its 100 years of existence, the NFL has had only one black man to serve as team president, which is despicable. The NFL has a long sorted history of operating with intellectual dishonesty. Dehumanizing players and their injures is at the top of a long list that continues to grow.

Try as they might, the NFL will never be able to whitewash the Colin Kaepernick (Kap) “blackballing” from the thoughts of right-minded people who saw this as wrong. Kap’s sin was choosing a nonviolent manner to express his frustrations about social injustice that was occurring in America. His career was literally “lynched” by the owners who closed ranks and their doors to him at a time when he was at the top of his professional game and had a right to be able to play. They choose to protect their bottom line instead of allowing him to play in his profession. For years, we were fed a pack of lies as to why Kap was not playing as we became increasingly infuriated over how Kap was mistreated. As we see people of all hues frustrated by senseless deaths around the country and the lack of empathy by those in charge when it comes to the sanctity of human life, Kap’s protest comes into focus. The reaction of people after George Floyds’ murder and other tragic losses represents Kap’s protest to the 100th power. Cities are coming under daily protest, while others burn. Many point to the player who silently protested and wonder if the league can now understand what Kaepernick was trying to tell them and the world as he quietly knelt on the sidelines.

The race norming practice came to light after several former NFL players filed a lawsuit last August alleging that the lower baselines led to their claims being denied. “Race norming” makes it harder for Black players to show a cognitive deficit in claims of dementia attributed to football-related concussions. In their lawsuits, the players said if they were white, they would have been awarded claims based on the separate baselines. The lawsuit claims that the practice has “explicitly and deliberately” discriminated against hundreds if not thousands of Black players with claims in the $1 billion settlement.

The NFL announced Wednesday that it has included two women and three Black doctors on a panel to propose a new testing regime. “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,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

According to the AP, 586 of more than 2,000 claims made by retired NFL players have been awarded. Of those, 379 players claiming early-stage dementia have received an average of $516,000 while 207 players claiming moderate dementia have received an average of $715,000.

As the sportswriter ended his piece, he said…“Perhaps now you will see, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that the NFL is a racist institution. Not just was. Not just used to be. Is. Right now.” 

Lead players lawyer Christopher Seeger, who negotiated the 2013 settlement with the NFL, said earlier this year that he had not seen any evidence of racial bias in the administration of the settlement fund. He amended those remarks Wednesday, apologizing for any pain the program has caused.





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