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League, players reach agreement to drop 'race-norming' in settlement program

Reuters
Reuters
 2021-10-21
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Oct 21 (Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) and former players have agreed to eliminate race-based methods of weighing claims in the league's $1 billion settlement program over brain injuries under a proposal filed in federal court.

Former players Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport alleged in a proposed class-action filed in federal court in 2020 that the "race-norming" process, used to evaluate cognitive function, assumed a lower baseline cognitive functioning for Black players than their white counterparts, making it more difficult to qualify for a settlement award.

The suit was dismissed earlier this year.

Wednesday's filing - obtained by Reuters - said the practice had "long been used in standard clinical neuropsychology" and was recommended by experts as part of the settlement agreement but that the joint proposal scraps any further use.

The proposal is pending court approval.

"The NFL parties have committed to fund a working group of experts to develop methods that do not reference race, specifically applicable to the population of NFL Players," the filing said.

"The parties hope that this work will provide a basis for accurate diagnosis for former NFL players, and potentially beyond that."

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) did not have an immediate comment.

The agreement noted that experts retained by the league and class counsel did not find "a differential impact on impairment ratings assigned to Black and white players" as a result of the demographic adjustments but would continue to examine this issue.

NFL's outside counsel Brad Karp said in a written statement that the league believed the evaluation process in the agreement could have "broad diagnostic applications".

"We look forward to the court's prompt approval of the agreement, which provides for a race-neutral evaluation process that will ensure diagnostic accuracy and fairness," he added.

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