Not So Woke: NFL Brain Injury Lawsuit Claims Black Men Have Lower Cognitive Skills than White Men

AP Photo_Gene J. Puskar (2)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Critics of the National Football League claim that black players are unfairly excluded in receiving payouts from the $1 billion brain injury settlement fund because the league has weighted the scoring system it uses to determine who gets how much of the settlement.

The league is being accused of “race-norming” its scoring system because it requires black players to score lower for cognitive skills than white players. Critics say this is racism and is also an example of the league trying to get out of having to pay more money to those black players who should otherwise qualify, according to Newsweek and the Associated Press.

The accusation has been made by former Redskins running back Ken Jenkins, 61, who delivered 50,000 petitions to the billion-dollar fund’s administrator, senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody. Jenkins calls for the league to drop its two-tiered system and use the same ratings for all players.

At issue is the NFL’s claim that blacks have lower cognitive skills naturally, even before any concussions affect their mental acuity. With this assumption, blacks would have to exhibit even lower cognition at the outset than whites after suffering concussions.

“The NFL’s dementia testing evaluates a person’s function in two dozen skills that fall under five sections: complex attention/processing speed; executive functioning; language; learning and memory; and visual perception. A player must show a marked decline in at least two of them to get an award,” the AP wrote.

The NFL has also challenged hundreds of applications claiming that the applying players do not qualify.

“My reaction was, ‘Well, here we go again,’ It’s the same old nonsense for Black folks, to have to deal with some insidious, convoluted deals that are being made,” said Jenkins, who is now an insurance executive and has not suffered any ill effects from his playing days.

“Because every Black retired NFL player has to perform lower on the test to qualify for an award than every white player. And that’s essentially systematic racism in determining these payouts,” claimed Katherine Possin, a professor of neurology at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center.

Judge Brody already threw out a lawsuit against the NFL’s scoring system because the deal had been made and accepted by all parties several years ago. Still, she did ask a lower court judge to look into the issue.

Critics also claim that the NFL’s scoring system is discriminatory because most of the league’s 20,000 living retirees are black. The league has yet to report on which players have already been awarded payments, so a racial breakdown of payments is not publicly known.

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