NFL, Players Agree to Eradicate ‘Race-Norming’ in $1 Billion Settlement

In Summary

The $1 billion settlement stems from judging Black players based on race regarding dementia testing from concussion claims.

According to a proposed deal in federal court on Wednesday, the NFL and thousands of retired NFL players came to a $1 billion agreement to eliminate judging players based on race regarding dementia testing stemming from concussion claims.  

“Race-norming” was identified after two former NFL players filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2020. Before the settlement, the previous testing format possibly prevented hundreds of Black players who have dementia from payments that average upwards of $500,000.  

Race-norming also stems from the stigma of Black players having a lower cognitive function than their white counterparts. The stigma allowed prejudice to bubble to the surface, making it more difficult for Black players to show they suffered from a mental deficit linked to their playing days. 

Approximately 70% of all active players and more than 60% of living retired players are Black.   

RelatedLawsuit Against ‘Race-Norming’ in NFL Dementia Tests Tossed 

However, lawyers representing retired Black players said white players were qualifying for payments two or three times higher since the payouts began in 2017.  

“No race norms or race demographic estimates—whether Black or white—shall be used in the settlement program going forward,” the proposal said.  

A total of $821 million has been paid to players from the concussion fund linked to five types of brain injuries, including early and advanced dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS.  

Black NFL retiree Ken Jenkins, who is now an insurance executive, said he does not have an impairment, but he strongly advocates for those who do. “If the new process eliminates race-norming and more people qualify, that’s great,” he said.

“[But] we’re not going to get everything we wanted,” Jenkins said Tuesday. “We want full transparency of all the demographic information from the NFL—who’s applied, who’s been paid.”  

Related: Ex-NFL Players Plead Guilty to Healthcare Fraud Scheme 

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