Dozens of retired black NFL players will now receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay in the league’s billion-dollar concussion settlement, reversing previous rulings over cognitive tests that used racial measures to determine whether players had dementia.
The decision, contained in a status report filed by the settlement administrator in court Thursday, comes two years after two former players sued the league to stop using race as a criterion in evaluating player claims in the process. Known as “Normalization of Race”.
The settlement administrator found that 646 players who had been tested for dementia but did not qualify for cash payments could have their tests automatically re-enrolled without using race as a criterion.
Of those, 61 had moderate or severe dementia and could receive payouts of $500,000 or more. Pay varies based on a player’s age and years in the league.
A further 246 former players have been diagnosed with mild dementia and will undergo further testing to monitor their condition. Thousands of other players have qualified for tryouts that don’t use race as a factor; These players can be paid in the coming months and years.
The results were the latest chapter in a concussion scandal that has led to nearly $1 billion in claims paid out to players with a range of cognitive and neurological conditions, including dementia. For years, former players and their families have accused the league of making it difficult, if not impossible, to receive compensation from the settlement, and they say the plaintiffs’ attorney representing all the players in the class-action settlement was not doing enough. fight for them.
In August 2020, two retired black players, Kevin Henry and Naje Davenport, challenged the seven-year-old settlement, accusing the league of “blatantly and intentionally” discriminating against black players by using separate race-based criteria to determine their eligibility for dementia. – Based payments that can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The league denied it was trying to exclude black players, but agreed to remove race as a criterion. Christopher Seeger, the attorney representing the entire class of players, apologized for allowing race to be used to evaluate dementia claims.
In October, the league and the players’ attorneys agreed to stop using a player’s race while trying to determine his level of cognitive impairment.
David Langfitt, who represented hundreds of former NFL players in the settlement, said the former players and their families owe Henry, Davenport and their lawyers “a debt of gratitude for coming forward and righting something that was clearly wrong.”
“The best way to think about the results so far is that this is a first step, a down payment on a problem that is now being fixed,” Langfitt added. “Moving forward, we anticipate a continued positive impact on the claims process as African-American players will be treated the same as the white players they played with.”
In a statement Friday, Seeger said he is focused on the reinstatement process, “providing more retired players and their families with critical benefits, increasing their access to information and ensuring greater equity and transparency going forward.”
The NFL did not return a request for comment.