A growing number of former football players and clinicians are raising concerns regarding the NFL's concussion settlement program protocol. Sitting at the center of the program, players are angered that the protocol does not take into account a former player's race. At first thought, race may not appear to be a big factor when it comes to concussions. However, it turns out that race is very much a big factor when it comes to testing.
The NFL's concussion settlement program recommends that clinicians use a “full demographic correction" when evaluating former NFL standouts. A "full demographic correction" requires players' cognitive test scores be compared to those in their demographic. These scores are then adjusted to account for expected differences in age, gender, education and of course, race. This practice is widely referred to as "race norming." This practice is often viewed as discriminatory or racist because these "norms" assume that retired Black football stars have a base level of cognitive function that is lower than their white teammates. As a result, Black players need to show a larger drop off in cognitive function to receive compensation from the league.
“I just want to be looked at the same way as a white guy,” former Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive End Kevin Henry said during a recent interview.
“We bust chops together, bro. We went out together and we played hard together. You know what I mean? It wasn't a white or Black thing. We lost together. We won together.”
Despite the concerns raised by clinicians and players, the NFL has continued to defend its recommendations.
“The NFL Parties play no role in the independent clinicians’ examinations, and any resulting diagnoses are reviewed by a neutral court-appointed claims administrator,” a spokesperson for the NFL said.
This back and forth has led to a class-action lawsuit from former players against the NFL. As the saga continues to unfold, more high profile players could jump into the conversation.
“What the NFL is doing to us right now...when they use a different scale for African-Americans versus any other race?” Super Bowl Champion Najeh Davenport asked.
“That's literally the definition of systematic racism.”
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