Posted on March 25, 2021

Lawyers Battle over ‘Race-Norming’ in NFL Dementia Tests

Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press, March 22, 2021

The court-appointed lead lawyer for thousands of retired players suing the NFL pledged Monday to try to remove race as a factor in dementia testing, but lawyers for Black players demanded he release the data on payouts by race in the $1 billion concussion settlement.

They argue that Black men are being denied awards that average more than $500,000 because of testing methods that assume Black people have lower cognitive function than white people.

That makes it harder to show they’ve suffered neurological damage linked to NFL concussions.

Lawyers challenging the “race-norming” practice insist they need to be part of the latest round of mediation with the NFL to ensure fairness for Black players, who make up the majority of the 20,000-member class of retired players.

“The devil is always in the details,” said lawyer Cy Smith, whose civil rights challenge to the race-norming practice was thrown out this month by the judge overseeing the NFL case, Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody. {snip}


Christopher Seeger, whom Brody appointed to serve as class counsel for the players, clawed back at Smith’s firm in a caustic memo filed Monday. He insisted he could resolve the race-norming issue — which Smith and others say developed on his watch — without their help.


“The process is not simple, and it will take time. Demographic norms that adjust for race, when clinically appropriate, have been used for decades and are generally accepted by experts in the field of neuropsychology,” he wrote.