NFL to Halt Race-Based Assessments in Concussion Settlement

NFL to Halt Race-Based Assessments in Concussion Settlement

Minami Tamaki LLP is representing former National Football League (“NFL”) players regarding the class action settlement in the matter In Re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, MDL No. 2323.  The settlement resolved allegations that the NFL was responsible for brain injuries and long-term neurological problems suffered by former professional football players. Since approval of the settlement, players have filed claims through the settlement program, which has a duration of 65 years.  

The NFL announced on June 2, 2021, that it would stop the application of “race-norming” in evaluating claims of dementia within the settlement.  The practice made it harder for Black players to show a decline in brain function and thus to qualify for a settlement award.

The change comes in response to heavy criticism of the use of race-based norms in the settlement, including a discrimination lawsuit filed by two Black former players.  Former Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport alleged that the NFL has been paying claims under the settlement using a formula that “explicitly and deliberately discriminates on the basis of race.” 

In March of this year, the court ordered a mediator to review the use of separate evaluation standards.  The lawsuit also prompted members of Congress to request data from the NFL to determine whether Black players were discriminated against, as well as a petition with nearly 50,000 signatures calling for an end to race-norming. 

The NFL stated that it was committed to eliminating the use of the race-based norms and finding race-neutral alternatives. The new norms will be applied both prospectively and retrospectively for claims that would have qualified for a monetary award but for the application of the race-based norms.  As the race-neutral norms have yet to be identified, the timing for re-evaluating denied claims is uncertain.

Individuals seeking information on the settlement in the In Re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation matter can contact Minami Tamaki attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Claire Choo at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.

Photo credit: Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash.

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