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Senator calls on NFL to be more transparent regarding efforts to rectify race-norming in concussion settlement

Michael Smith and Michael Holley react to the news that the NFL is set to use more social justice messaging during the 2021 season, and despite the gesture, both aren't convinced that the decision is entirely sincere.

As those who profit from creating and stoking societal division whine and complain about the NFL’s decision to continue social-justice efforts during the 2021 season, the league continues to reel from a concussion settlement that utilized the improper practice of race-norming. Thus, at a time when the league continues to be chided by some as “woke,” others are pressing the league to better explain how it will properly rectify the impact of race-norming on the process of paying claims to former players.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has called on the league to be more transparent on this subject, after the NFL provided information to Senator Wyden late last month regarding the effort to reevaluate claims without race-norming.

“The NFL has a steep hill to climb to make amends for its racist policies that denied Black former players benefits they were owed and to give some straight answers about how the policy was implemented in the first place,” Wyden said in a statement, via ABC News. “It is unacceptable that the league refuses to reveal how many players were denied benefits as a result of its race-based formula.”

The league explained on Saturday that, based on a Friday decision from the judge presiding over the settlement discussions, it cannot provide such information based on the ongoing talks aimed at resolving the race-norming issue within the confines of the pending court action.

“The Judge overseeing the mediation has directed the parties not to discuss the mediation process, and the NFL is abiding by that Order,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ABC News. “While the NFL did not create race norms, it is committed to prohibiting their use in Settlement Program evaluations and ensuring that any claimant whose claim was denied as a result of race norms will have their testing rescored.”

Both sides in the concussion litigation have vowed to make amends, because both sides originally approved of the use of race-norming, which presumes a lower cognitive baseline for Black players. Compounding the racially-discriminatory notion that Black players naturally have lower cognitive ability than their white counterparts is the fact that, with a lower starting point for assessing impairment, it becomes harder to show that Black players suffered brain injuries.

Lawyer Christopher Seeger, who represents the class of retired players and who previously has apologized for allowing race norms to be used, took issue with the league’s statement.

“The NFL does not speak for me or the retired NFL player class, and their [June 28] response to Senator Wyden does not reflect our position,” Seeger said in a statement issued before the presiding judge directed the parties to not discuss the matter publicly. “At this point, the only agreement we have with the NFL is to eliminate the use of ‘race norms’ in the claims process going forward. No agreement has been reached on rescoring previously submitted claims, and the NFL’s response to Senator Wyden misrepresents our position. We believe all claims should be rescored if a neuropsychologist applied ‘race norms’, and if this is not achieved as part of the mediation, we will seek relief from the court.”

Frankly, it would be far better for the league to worry less about public gestures and more about private efforts to ensure that the racial bias blatantly baked into the concussion settlement becomes fully and completely fixed, with no effort to mince words, play games, or pinch pennies. All claims tainted by race-norming must be thrown out and then reprocessed from scratch. Anything less than that is unacceptable.