NFL to End Practice That Denied Black Players Portion of $1B Settlement

    • The NFL will end the highly controversial practice of "race-norming" in assessing settlement awards for former players.
    • The practice made it harder for Black retirees to collect on a settlement over brain damage from concussions.

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The NFL announced on Wednesday that it will no longer assume that Black players have lesser cognitive abilities than white and other non-Black players when assessing brain injury claims.

The league had used the highly controversial practice of “race-norming” for years, but it received little attention until 2018. The policy made it more difficult for Black players to collect awards on a settlement from a lawsuit related to cognitive decline resulting from head injuries.

That lawsuit alleged that the NFL covered up information related to long-term brain damage from concussions.

Under the settlement, players can qualify for awards up to $5 million, with the average payout over $500,000.

  • The settlement fund has paid out $765 million so far, with about $335 million of that going to claims related to dementia.
  • Total payouts are expected to be north of $1 billion by the end of the 65-year settlement plan.

Supreme Court justices effectively finalized the settlement in 2016, when they refused to hear an appeal of a lower court’s decision. 

The issue received renewed attention in March, after a senior U.S. District judge threw out a lawsuit brought by two former players, insisting that the two sides reach a settlement. In May, a group representing former players delivered 50,000 petitions to the judge demanding equal treatment for Black players. 

The NFL said it would reassess previous claims from Black players in light of its new policy.