The lead attorney for about 20,000 former NFL players and the league reached an agreement in June 2021 to end the practice of race-norming.
What is race-norming? It is a controversial practice that curves the cognitive test scores of Black and African-American players with data that assumes those individuals have a lower functioning level.
That information served as part of the payout process in the class-action settlement on concussions. The settlement doesn’t require the NFL to admit to discrimination in the payment administration process that began in 2017.
Since the initial settlement, over $800 million has been sent to over 1,000 former players who have been diagnosed with brain-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Race-Norming Is a Practice in Neuropsychology
Although the NFL receives ample criticism for embracing race-norming, it is crucial to point out that neuropsychology considers it a valid, if not disputed, practice.
Doctors use it to determine cognitive impairments or the presence of a brain disease, using race as a proxy for learning and memory tests. Additional factors, including an individual’s education and overall socioeconomic background, contribute to the eventual diagnosis.
Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport brought a lawsuit against the league in 2020, stating that they could not get settlement payouts because of the race-norming structure. Davenport’s doctor diagnosed him with dementia, but the NFL appealed, with the demand that the test scores get curved with this neuropsychology practice.
Since 70% of former NFL players are Black or African-American, the league could save millions by using this technique.
The settlement should stop this practice for good, and attention can now be given to other sports news.