So said David “Iowahawk” Burge on Wednesday, and … well, let’s just hope we don’t see a worse example. The NFL announced that it would reverse a years-long practice of “race norming” for cognition in relation to benefits from its brain-injury fund for players. The league’s policy was, um … well …
The NFL on Wednesday pledged to halt the use of “race-norming” — which assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive function — in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and review past scores for any potential race bias.
The practice made it harder for Black retirees to show a deficit and qualify for an award. The standards were created in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients, but critics faulted the way they were used to determine payouts in the NFL concussion case.
Wednesday’s announcement comes after a pair of Black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice, medical experts raised concerns and a group of NFL families last month dropped 50,000 petitions at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia — where the lawsuit had been thrown out by the judge overseeing the settlement.
Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody later took the unusual step of asking for a report on the issue. Black retirees hope it will include a breakdown of the nearly $800 million in payouts so far by race. They fear the data will never come to light.
ABC’s Terry Moran said that he “couldn’t believe this was real” when he first heard about the practice. That was my reaction as well, and likely the reaction of many others:
As the segment explains, “race norming” has a legitimate use in health care, but the intent is to improve outcomes for patients. In this case, the NFL applied it in order to short black players from getting benefits they were not only entitled to receive, but desperately need to deal with the outcome of their employment in the NFL. And they were doing so on the explicit basis of the color of their skin, using an argument that at its core assumed that black people aren’t as smart as white people.
And this in a league where around 70% of its workers — but not its executives — are either black or biracial. It’s stunning.
With that in mind, it’s difficult to argue against LZ Granderson here when he points out the league’s hypocrisy about Colin Kaepernick. The league’s response to Kaepernick’s protests over racial injustice was a bit more complex than Granderson allows here — at one point the league went all-in on kneeling without Kaepernick — but this revelation makes the league’s sudden interest in lecturing its fans on racial injustice look like a cruel corporate joke. Especially in its endorsement for “black lives matter.” Granderson’s bitter laughter is well earned.
“The league was in on it,” Granderson says. That certainly seems to be the case. So we can ask, again, when the league will get rid of Roger Goodell and the rest of its leadership. After all, if this is “institutional racism” or systemic racism, Goodell has been running the institution and system for decades. Perhaps it’s time to bring in fresh leadership.
And for that matter, maybe the players need new leadership as well. Where has the NFL Players Association been on this? They’ve run at least several contract negotiations in this period. Why didn’t they address this in collective bargaining?