Earlier this week, the NFL spontaneously announced that it was ceasing the practice of “race-norming” in connection with its head injury class action settlement. When the news broke, most people didn’t know what “race-norming” was (and many likely still don’t.).
Specifically, in calculating the amount to be paid out from the settlement pool for former player’s claims for diseases, like dementia, that arose from concussions or other head injuries, the League’s “policy” was to assume that the baseline cognitive function of Black men was less than that of their White counterparts, leading to reduced damages being paid to Black men for the same injury.
Yes, you read that right. That’s “race-norming.”
As the well-known commentator and comedian, John Oliver, once said, “If you want to do something evil, wrap it in something boring.” “Race-norming” sounds like a boring legal or actuarial mathematics term; in reality, it is just plain ugly racism with a capital R.
The NFL only made this announcement and made this change only because two Black former players had sued the League for the practice in August of 2020. One of the players, Najeh Davenport claimed that a doctor initially diagnosed him with dementia, but after the NFL appealed and demanded his test scores get curved using race-normed data, the diagnosis was reversed and his monetary claim was denied. U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, who has overseen the settlement, was so troubled by the race-norming revelation that she appointed a mediator to investigate earlier this year.
Almost unbelievably, at the same time that the NFL was trying to back-track on its blackballing of Colin Kaepernick and rushing to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the George Floyd protests, it was defending its secret racist policy that it used to pay less money to Black claimants than White claimants. Outrageous.
What does it say about the sports media that the NFL’s race-norming in the concussion settlement is not the biggest story right now?
— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 7, 2021
To layer such vile racism over the decades-long CTE/TBI lies—while all the while saying they support Black Lives Matter—should make this story the perfect storm for the NFL. In a logical word, this is the type of scandal on top of scandal that should take down the League.
But it hasn’t. Indeed, the quiet coverage in the media, has been notable.
Instead of using this odd clinical sounding term (“race norming”), maybe those in the media and sports media should try a headline like:
“The NFL Said Black People Are Dumber Than White People and For Years Actively Used This Eugenics Level Racism To Cheat Black Players Out of Concussion Settlement Dollars.”
Because that’s what’s been happening in plain terms.
Instead, we are awash in media reports about big off-season player and team news items, like Aaron Rodgers unhappiness in Green Bay and Julio Jones being traded to the Titans, but precious little about the fundamentally racist practices employed by the NFL. In the real world, power, money, and the fanatic following that the NFL commands often trump logic.
The NFL players are 70% Black. The League’s massive multi-billion-dollar success is built on the backs of Black athletes.
Its track record on its handling of head injury claims and on racism—from the dearth of Black coaches and executives to its anti-Black Lives Matter stance opposing Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful kneeling protest to “race-norming”— is appalling.
When are we—fans, the media, players—going to stand up and demand better?
This post is republished on Medium.
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