More black ex-NFL players eligible for concussion payouts

Dozens of retired black NFL players will now be eligible for payouts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the league’s billion-do...


Dozens of retired black NFL players will now be eligible for payouts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the league’s billion-dollar concussion settlement, reversing previous rulings made due to testing cognitive tests that used race-based measures to determine whether players had dementia.

The ruling, included in a status report filed by the settlement administrator that was entered into court on Thursday, came two years after two former players sued the league ending the use of race as a criterion for judging player claims, a process known as “race-norming”.

The settlement administrator discovered that 646 players who had been tested for dementia but were not eligible for cash payouts could have their tests automatically reassessed without using race as a criterion.

Of those, 61 were found to have moderate or severe dementia and could receive payments worth $500,000 or more. Payouts vary depending on the player’s age and the number of years he has been in the league.

Another 246 former players suffered from mild dementia and will undergo further tests to monitor their condition. Thousands of other players have qualified for reviews that won’t use race as a factor; those players could qualify for payouts in the months and years to come.

The results were the final chapter in the landmark concussion settlement that resulted in the payment of approximately $1 billion in claims to players with various 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 settlement payments, and they claimed that the plaintiffs’ attorney representing each player in the class action settlement was not doing enough to fight for them.

In August 2020, two retired black players, Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, challenged the seven-year settlement and accused the league of “explicitly and deliberately” discriminating against black players by using race-based benchmarks to determine their eligibility for dementia-based payments, which can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The league denied trying to exclude black players, but agreed to remove race as a criterion. Christopher Seeger, the attorney representing the entire gaming class, has apologized for allowing the use of race in the assessment of dementia claims.

In October, the league and the players’ lawyers agreed to stop using a player’s race to determine their level of cognitive decline.

David Langfitt, who represented hundreds of former NFL players in the settlement, said the former players and their families owe Henry, Davenport and their attorneys “a debt of gratitude for coming forward and correcting something that was clearly wrong”.

“The best way to think about the results so far is that they’re a first step, a down payment on a problem that’s now fixed,” Langfitt added. “Going forward, we expect 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 focusing on the re-rating process “to provide more retired players and their families with critical benefits, increase their access to information, and ensure greater fairness and transparency. in the future”.

The NFL did not return a request for comment.

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