N.F.L. Concussion Settlement Will Drop Race-Based Assessment for Payouts


The N.F.L. mentioned it might scrap the usage of a disputed race-based technique of evaluating dementia claims made by former gamers within the league’s concussion settlement and pledged to judge for proof of bias the a whole bunch of claims that had already been filed.

The announcement got here a number of months after the federal choose overseeing the roughly $1 billion settlement ordered the league and legal professionals representing the 20,000 former gamers who’re coated by the settlement to evaluate the usage of separate requirements for evaluating dementia in white and Black gamers.

In August, two retired Black players, Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, filed a civil rights suit and a suit against the seven-year-old settlement that accused the league of “explicitly and deliberately” discriminating in opposition to Black gamers through the use of separate race-based benchmarks to find out their eligibility for dementia-based payouts, which will be price a whole bunch of hundreds of {dollars}.

The judge dismissed their suits, but the cases brought light to the evaluations and prompted members of Congress to request data from the N.F.L. to find out whether or not Black gamers have been being discriminated in opposition to. They additionally prompted an ABC News report and led greater than a dozen wives of Black retired N.F.L. gamers to ship the choose within the case a petition with practically 50,000 signatures calling for an finish to race-norming.

As it has in earlier responses, the N.F.L. denied that the usage of the race-based norms was discriminatory. But in an announcement Wednesday, the league mentioned it was dedicated to eliminating the usage of these norms and discovering race-neutral options with the assistance of specialists in neuropsychology. While these new measures haven’t been recognized, the choice to evaluate outdated dementia claims below new evaluation instruments may imply that probably a whole bunch extra gamers will obtain funds from the settlement.

“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 mentioned. “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.”

While some former gamers have blamed the N.F.L., some have additionally taken intention at Christopher Seeger, the lead lawyer for greater than 20,000 former gamers, who the gamers say knew in regards to the abuse of race-based benchmarks as early as 2018 and didn’t handle the difficulty. Lawyers for Henry and Davenport, the 2 former gamers who accused the league of discrimination, requested the courtroom to switch Seeger in March.

In an announcement additionally launched on Wednesday, Seeger apologized for not having acknowledged the issues triggered by way of separate benchmarks for Black and white gamers.

“I am sorry for the pain this episode has caused Black former players and their families,” Seeger mentioned. “Ultimately, this settlement only works if former players believe in it, and my goal is to regain their trust and ensure the N.F.L. is fully held to account.”

That belief might take time to rebuild. Lacey Leonard, whose husband, Louis, 36, played for six teams over five seasons, mentioned Seeger’s apology was not sufficient. Leonard acquired a settlement after submitting a dementia declare as a result of he has a bunch of cognitive points, together with reminiscence loss, anger and melancholy. When the claims auditor discovered no issues with Leonard’s declare, the N.F.L. appealed the settlement, and his declare was reversed.

“Honestly, it was a half apology,” Lacey Leonard mentioned in a cellphone interview. “I think the N.F.L. owes more to disabled players. It’s disheartening that in 2021 that we are still fighting systemic racism.”

The N.F.L. didn’t say how lengthy it might take for the league, Seeger and the panel of consultants to create a brand new system to judge dementia claims. More than $800 million in claims has already been accredited by the settlement administrator for a variety of neurological and cognitive ailments. That quantity may enhance considerably if many dementia claims that have been initially rejected are reversed and accredited.

It is unclear what number of Black gamers might have been misdiagnosed or had diagnoses that have been overturned. More than 7,000 former gamers took free neuropsychological and neurological exams provided within the settlement. Some of them have been advised they didn’t have dementia and is perhaps unaware of how their exams have been scored.

Cyril Smith, a lawyer for Henry and Davenport, asserted that white gamers’ dementia claims have been being accredited at two to 3 occasions the speed of these of Black gamers. But Smith was unable to substantiate his declare as a result of, he mentioned, Seeger and the N.F.L. had not shared any knowledge on the approval charges for dementia claims by white and Black gamers.

Seeger mentioned that knowledge could be launched when new assessments for dementia claims and an investigation taking a look at whether or not gamers have been discriminated in opposition to had been submitted to the courtroom.



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