Black Former N.F.L. Players Say Racial Bias Skews Concussion Payouts

The players say doctors use two scales — one for Black athletes, one for white — to determine eligibility for dementia claims.

  • Aug. 25, 2020
  • Note: Dr. Jim Harris provided this article. For several followed and contributed to the research related to head injuries resulting from football impact. The person that wrote3 the article is a friend of Jim.
  • Two retired players have accused the N.F.L. of “explicitly and deliberately” discriminating against hundreds if not thousands of Black players who filed dementia-related claims in the landmark concussion settlement reached in 2013, making it harder for them to qualify for payouts worth as much as $3 million.

In two legal actions filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Philadelphia, the players asked that the judge stop the league from insisting that race-based benchmarks be used to evaluate players’ claims. They also asked that the scores on Black players’ neurocognitive exams be recalculated using “race-neutral” scales that would put them on an even footing with white players.

“In effect, the settlement, as it has been administered, has a white door and a Black door,” said Cyril Smith, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder and the lead counsel for two players who are Black, Najeh Davenport, a former running back, and Kevin Henry, a longtime defensive end. “Although the neurocognitive tests behind each door are the same, the raw scores for Black and white former players are interpreted differently when they are converted” to scores that are used to determine whether a player is eligible for a payment.

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