The NFL announced Wednesday that the league would stop the use of “race-norming” in brain injury claims, ESPN reports. Race-norming, which has been used in the NFL’s landmark concussion settlement, is the process of assessing a player’s cognitive test scores and comparing and adjusting them to average scores within that player’s race, education, or gender. The practice assumed that Black players had lower cognitive functioning than players of other races, and has historically made it more difficult for them to receive compensation when reporting concussions, according to the network. The practice was originally created to gauge the best treatment options for dementia patients in the 1980s.
The change in policy follows a civil rights lawsuit filed against the NFL by Black football players. The NFL consequently took steps to change the practice, and hired a group of neuropsychologists to come up with the best way of analyzing the brain injury claims. They suggested that the new testing method should include two female doctors and three Black doctors. “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,” a statement from the NFL reads.
Additionally, the lawyer who represented around 20,000 retired athletes in the NFL’s concussion settlement has condemned race-norming and apologized for “a poor choice of words.” Christopher Seeger, who initially said he and his firm had “not seen any evidence of racial bias in the settlement program” has now backtracked on those statements. “I was wrong...I’m really sorry that anybody, any client of mine in this program has been made to feel that way,” he told the network. “That is a big mistake. It was a failure of the system. I’m a part of that. But I’m also a part of getting it fixed.”