Lawsuit Alleging NFL Settlement Discrimination Tossed

Brock Fritz Headshot

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged that the NFL’s concussion settlement discriminates based on race through “race-norming” in dementia tests.

The Associated Press reported that the lawsuit states “race-norming” makes it harder for Black NFL alumni to qualify for settlement awards that average more than $500,000. Race is one of the demographic factors in dementia testing, with lawyers saying that the testing assumes Black athletes start with worse cognitive functioning than white athletes.

Senior US. District Judge Anita B. Brody dismissed the lawsuit Monday, ordering the NFL and the lead lawyer in the $1 billion settlement to resolve the issue through meditation. According to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, Brody ruled the case an “improper collateral attack.” Lawyer Cyril V. Smith filed a notice to appeal the dismissal.

“We are deeply concerned that the Court’s proposed solution is to order the very parties who created this discriminatory system to negotiate a fix,” said Smith, who represents former NFL players Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport. “The class of Black former players whom we represent must have a seat at the table and a transparent process.”

The lawsuit alleges that Henry and Davenport were denied awards that they would have earned if they had been white. An ABC report released last month found that several clinicians fear the baseline cognitive assessment does discriminate.

Players first sued the NFL for its handling of concussion issues and brain injuries in 2011. A settlement fund, for which Brody steered negotiations, has so far paid more than $765 million to retired players for neurocognitive problems linked to NFL concussions, including about $335 million for dementia.

The awards average more than $700,000 for 203 ex-players diagnosed with moderate dementia and more than $500,000 for the 365 diagnosed with earlier-stage dementia.

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