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NFL pledges to halt practice that assumed Black players started with lower cognitive function

The NFL on Wednesday pledged to halt its decades-old use of "race-norming" — a practice that assumes Black players have a lower baseline level of cognition — in its near-billion-dollar concussion settlement, AP reports.

Why it matters: The use of  "race-norming" meant that Black players had to show a larger cognitive decline to qualify for the settlement. The NFL said Wednesday that it will also review previous scores for potential race bias.


  • The announcement comes after two Black players filed a civil rights lawsuit and a group of NFL families filed 50,000 petitions at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, per AP.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Jeff Tracy: Wednesday's announcement is such an important and overdue win. The next step is not only ensuring future claimants are treated equally, but that past ones who've been denied claims because of their skin color can have those decisions reviewed, and perhaps reversed.

Catch up quick: In 2013, the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement after facing a flood of lawsuits from retired players who alleged the league concealed what it knew about the dangers of repeated head trauma.

  • The $765 million cap has since been removed, and more than $856 million has been awarded to 1,263 retired players as of May 21.
  • Those who claim their careers led to dementia or similar cognitive diseases are required to undergo medical testing to determine if they are eligible for compensation.
  • Though the NFL has said race-norming was never mandated, the organization did appeal some Black players' claims if their scores were not adjusted for race.
  • Worth noting: Medical experts have protested the practice.

What they're saying: The NFL has formed a panel of neuropsychologists to formulate a new testing protocol, according to the organization. The panel includes three Black doctors, per AP.

  • "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," the NFL said in a statement issued to AP.

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