Justice System Fumbles NFL Concussion Case Following $1 Billion Settlement

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By Stephone Coward

  • A federal appeals court denied hearing the NFL concussion case its $1B “race-norming” settlement
  • Former NFL players receive $200K if they have early-stage and moderate dementia

In a stunning turn of events after the NFL’s $1 billion “race-norming” case settlement, a federal appeals court denied hearing an NFL concussion case, leaving the final verdict for the lower district courts. Race norming had been used by the NFL to statistically adjust scores that account for the race or ethnicity of the person being scored when it comes to brain injuries. This decision to kick the can down the road follows a ruling by Judge Anita Brody that dismissed former NFL players Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport’s lawsuit as “an improper attack on the settlement agreement.”

Why This Matters: Before your eyes understandably shift from this article to elsewhere to determine the year that this was written or to confirm today’s date, let me reassure you that yes, this is 2021 and not 1921. Let’s remember that this started with the 2017 NFL class action lawsuit settlement, where the league agreed to pay former football players who were diagnosed with brain disease amounts up to $5 million dollars for their sport related injuries. On average former players are to receive $200,000 if they had early-stage and moderate dementia.

The judge in this case did express her concerns on taking action about the settlement’s use of race when measuring former players eligibility for payment based on their cognitive degeneration. As a form of airing their grievances, families of NFL players dropped off 50,000 petitions at Judge Brody’s court house.

Situational Awareness: In an announcement that didn’t require any moral courage, because it is at a minimum the right thing to do, the NFL has decided to discontinue their protocol of assuming Black players’ cognitive abilities are inferior to that of their white and non-Black counterparts when assessing brain injury claims. Armed with decades of research and best practices, properly addressing this issue should have been an easy touchdown for the NFL by ensuring all former players get access to quality healthcare, treatment, and compensation based solely on the severity of their injury, without their race mattering.

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