The National Football League (NFL) has committed to stopping the use of “career rules,” a process that meant black players began with lower cognitive functioning when deciding whether to offer retired players a compensation for brain injury claims.
The standards were designed in the 1990s in hopes of providing more appropriate treatment for patients with dementia, but critics criticized the way the NFL used them to assess legal harm, saying it was more hard for black football players to show deficit and qualify for a prize. .
Wednesday’s announcement comes after a pair of retired black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice, which had been used to determine payments as part of a $ 1 billion deal between the NFL and the players in 2013.
Medical experts had also expressed concerns and a group of NFL families withdrew 50,000 petitions last month in federal court in Philadelphia, where the civil rights lawsuit had been dismissed by the judge overseeing the settlement.
U.S. District Judge Anita B Brody took the unusual step of requesting a report on the matter. Black players are expected to include a breakdown of nearly $ 800 million in payments so far per race, but have expressed concern that the data will never come to light.
“Words are cheap. Let’s see what they do, “said Washington running back Ken Jenkins, whose wife Amy Lewis led the petition on behalf of NFL friends struggling with cognitive problems. So far, Jenkins, executive of ‘insurance, has been saved.
According to the NFL, a group of neuropsychologists recently formed to propose a new trial regime in court includes two women and three black doctors.
“The substitution rules will apply prospectively and retrospectively to those players who would otherwise have qualified for an award, but for the application of career-based rules,” the NFL said in a statement issued Wednesday by spokesman Brian McCarthy.
Major player lawyer Christopher Seeger, who negotiated the 2013 deal with the NFL, said earlier this year that he had seen no evidence of racial bias in the administration of the settlement fund.
He amended those statements Wednesday by apologizing for the pain the program has caused.
“I am sorry for the pain that this episode has caused to the former black players and their families. Ultimately, this deal only works if former players believe in it and my goal is to regain their trust and ensure the NFL is fully accountable, ”Seeger said in a statement.
Both Seeger and the NFL say the practice was never mandatory, but was left to the discretion of the doctors involved in the program. Still, the NFL appealed some claims filed by black players if their scores did not fit by race.
“Were it not for the women, who were infuriated by all the bureaucracy involved, it would never have been so,” Jenkins said of the attention paid to the issue, three years after the lawyers of the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kevin Henry and former Steelers and Green Bay Packers Najeh Davenport say they raised him for the first time.
The “career rule” has been explained
Binary race standards, when used in testing, assume that black patients start with worse cognitive performance than whites and other non-black people.
In their lawsuit, Henry and Davenport argued that they were denied awards, but would have been qualified if they had been white.
Brody, the judge, dismissed her lawsuit in March and called it an undue “collateral attack” on the agreement. The former players have appealed the sentence.
More than 2,000 NFL retirees have filed claims for dementia, but fewer than 600 have received awards, according to the latest report. More than half of all NFL retirees who filed claims are black, according to attorneys involved in the litigation.
Prizes so far have averaged $ 516,000 for 379 players with early-stage dementia and more than $ 715,000 for 207 players with moderate dementia. Retirees can also get payments for Alzheimer’s disease and a few more diagnoses.
The deal put an end to thousands of lawsuits accusing the NFL of hiding for a long time what it knew about the link between concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
Most current players in the NFL are black and the league has recently dealt with high-profile racial issues.
In 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is black, knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Other players followed suit, and Kaepernick’s act of protest became a political turning point with Donald Trump. criticizing the players.
Kaepernick and his teammate Eric Reid eventually found themselves outside of American football and later demanded the NFL, complaining about the league, blacklisted them for their protests.
The NFL settled with the players in 2019 and the league commissioner later he apologized not to encourage players to protest peacefully.