The NFL says no more to racial differences on compensation

Causes for concussion will no longer be based on the formula that black players have a lower level of cognitive function

The NFL, North America’s largest professional football league, will stop dealing with concussion causes based on the hitherto established formula that black players have lower levels of cognitive function. “No more differences on race-based compensation.”

The football league has also announced plans to launch a review for cases that have been resolved in a settlement or plea deal. The change of pace stems from a civil rights lawsuit brought by two black players. To date, over two thousand NFL players have filed claims for concussion damage and only less than 600 have received compensation. According to lawyers operating in the sector, former black players are more than half of all NFL players who have retired. The formula made it possible to pay lower compensation to black athletes, considered “less intelligent”. The breakthrough came after two former African American athletes, Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, were refused compensation for their trauma and filed a civil rights violation lawsuit against this discriminatory practice. “Classic systemic racism,” accused one of them. In March, the judge rejected the request inviting the parties to reach an agreement, but also asked for a full report on the allegations of racial prejudice. The NFL preferred to abandon the controversial practice. Until now, the League compared the results of cognitive tests, using a norm linked to demographic groups. Based on this methodology, black players are assumed to have a lower cognitive level than the average white peers. In this way, to obtain compensation, an African American athlete had to demonstrate a greater cognitive decline than a white one. “It’s pure racism. Just because I’m African American doesn’t mean I was born with fewer brain cells, ”commented Ken Jenkins, a retired player who has supported this legal battle.

Race norming

The “race-norming” was established in the 90s starting from the premise that socio-economic factors affect a person’s health and was used to quantify the compensation related to the effects of repeated head injuries suffered by football players, such as encephalopathy chronic. Effects fully revealed only in recent years, in particular after a shock study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama): out of 111 brains of former NFL players donated to science, all but one showed signs of encephalopathy , in many cases very serious. Racial standardization detractors argue that a small sample of African Americans in San Diego who took part in psychiatrist Robert Heaton’s initial study do not fully represent the black community in the US, then as now. In the past, the NFL had defended its practice by stating that the standards were based on “cognitive tests and scoring methodologies widely accepted and established for a long time”, adding that the adoption of the standard was not mandatory but at the discretion of doctors called as experts . Now, however, it seems to adjust to Biden’s new anti-racism climate in America, after the waves of protest related to George Floyd and the battle of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem against racial inequity and infuriated Donald Trump.

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The NFL says no more to racial differences on compensation

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