A few former NFL players have a problem with the league.  They believe that that NFL concussion settlement payouts discriminate against black players, and now want the league to be held accountable.  According to them, the proof can be found directly in the tests they were administered in conjunction with the ongoing health issue.

NFL Concussion Settlement Controversy

Medical tests administered to determine whether a player suffers from Dementia have used diverse standards for black and white former players, which, according to the lawsuit, makes it more difficult for black players to demonstrate injury and qualify for compensation.  Lawyers of two former players argued their case in court on Tuesday, showing discrepancies in the testing process.

There is a concussion settlement fund for retired players with neurocognitive problems related to playing in the NFL.  The fund has paid $720 million until now, and this includes more than $300 million for dementia problems.  The dementia lawsuits have been denied, however, and these correspond to three-quarters of the claims.

According to lawyers of former players like Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, their clients were rejected compensations “based on a discriminatory testing regime” that takes into account social factors like race.  The lawyers confirm that both guys would have qualified for compensations, but because of their race they were not considered.  This is an aggravation against the players because there is an open claim showing they need awards based on their health condition after having played with the league for a long time.

The lawyers complain about the NFL’s position with regards to concussion settlement, writing, “Black former players have been automatically assumed, through a statistical manipulation called ‘race-norming,’ to have started with worse cognitive functioning than White former players. ”  This makes it even harder to show that players suffered a cognitive deficit and deserve a financial compensation.  They added, “The use of a deliberate, explicit, racial classification — with Black and white former players automatically subjected to different standards — is a blatant violation of the law.”  Lawyer Cy Smith is seeking to make the medical tests race-neutral, so there would be no bias on this.

The NFL Strikes Back

League spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement that the lawsuit was totally misguided.  He asserts, “The settlement program … was the result of arm’s-length, comprehensive negotiations between the NFL and Class Counsel, was approved by the federal courts after a searching review of its fairness, and always contemplated the use of recognized statistical techniques to account for demographic differences such as age, education and race.” McCarthy also said that the NFL was fully compromised to paying all legitimate compensations and covering the benefits of retired players and their family members.

There are others who also deny any racial bias in the settlement program.  Christopher Seeger, the lead players’ lawyer in the litigation, is one of them.  However, he has promised to review the lawsuit.  Seeger said the testing method was designed by specialized experts and approved by the judge in the case, a Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody out of Philadelphia.

Henry played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1993 to 2000, and he said his claim was rejected although he suffers from headaches, depression and memory loss that is due to the NFL injuries and concussions he received while active in the league.  These symptoms leave him with a disability that made it difficult to find a job after he left football.

Davenport is another former player who is looking for change.  He played for the Steelers, the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts from 2002 to 2008, and he suffered more than ten concussions during that time, including one that actually broke his eye socket and made him lose consciousness.  He had been approved for compensation, but the NFL appealed the claim.  The league requested to have his results remeasured using the alleged racial norms.  According to Smith, following that method, it is almost guaranteed his claim will be denied.

Smith told The Associated Press, “The NFL has a choice to make, and the choice is between treating the lives of its Black players like they matter, or continuing with the current course.” The NFL must take action and not appeal cases that have a scientific baseline for their results.  The NFL concussion settlement fund was created to cover more than 20,000 retired players who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, but there is apparently a long way to go for it to work properly.