In Agreed Concussion Deal, Former Black NFL Player Has New Route to Payout

A new plan finalized Friday could allow many retired NFL players to resubmit their claims or be retested for dementia after their initial claims were denied.

The claims that can be resubmitted might have been denied in part due to the NFL’s controversial use of “race-norming” in the claims process, which gained national attention and anger over the last several years, the Associated Press reported.

“Race-norming” made the assumption that Black people have lower levels of cognitive function than white people, making it harder for non-white former NFL players to prove a loss of brain function due to repeated brain trauma suffered while playing professional football.

The new agreement approved by Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia could help many former players receive claims up to $600,000, AP reported.

Brody dismissed a lawsuit last year from two former players, Najeh Davenport and Kevin Henry, which alleged that the process was discriminatory to Black former players who were looking to receive money from the $1 billion settlement. However, she ordered the attorneys for the players and the NFL to go through mediation to solve the problems in the claims process.

The process of “race-norming” started in the medical community to establish a basis for a variety of socioeconomic factors that could be affecting someone’s health, but experts have said using it the way those evaluating former NFL players did was too simplistic and likely discriminated against Black players.

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The league has paid more than $800 million to former players since the settlement was agreed on, and the AP reported that the players who could be affected by Friday’s agreement could lead to another $100 million in claims.

More than 3,300 former players have made a claim to be part of the settlement over the NFL’s alleged decades of suppression and ignorance of the fact that repeated head trauma experienced in professional football can have substantial effects later in life.

More than 2,000 of those claims have been over the development of moderate to advanced dementia, AP reported. The “race-norming” standards were used most often in the processing of dementia claims.

In October, the league agreed to remove the race-based standards from its process of evaluating the claims and develop new, racially neutral standards for evaluating the cognitive abilities of former players.

“Everyone agrees race-based norms should be replaced, but no off-the-shelf alternative exists, and that’s why these experts are working to solve this decades-old issue,” the league said in a statement at the time.

“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.”

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