What is racial normalization? How the NFL took advantage of the claim that black players have weaker brain capacity
The NFL has said it will stop applying the racial standard to brain injury lawsuits as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce racial prejudice in football.
The controversial practice of racial normalization assumes that black players have a lower level of cognitive function, making it more difficult for these players to bring complaints against the organization.
By applying the racial standard to cognitive testing, the NFL has served the injury claims of black players by essentially claiming that they have limited brain function to begin with.
The league also agreed to review previous brain injury claims that were settled using the racial standard.
The pledge to end breed standardization is part of the payment of a class action settlement worth more than $ 1 billion to settle concussion disputes brought by former players.
The 2017 regulations used so-called racial cognitive norms to assess the extent to which a player suffered from a brain injury, which, in turn, determined the amount of compensation that player would receive.
More than 2,000 former NFL players have filed dementia complaints, but less than 600 have received compensation.
And while it is not known how many of those claims are from black players, or how brain injury awards have been distributed racially, lawyers say about 70% of NFL retirees are black.
What is racial normalization?
Racial normalization is a strongly contested practice in neuropsychology that seeks to recognize the impact of race on cognitive function. It is used to determine cognitive impairment or brain disease while taking race into account.
However, the assumptions he makes about all blacks based on research involving a select group of people have been controversial for decades.
In racial normalization, race is used as a vague proxy for factors such as education levels or socio-economic background.
It was used as a practice to adjust test results for race in the 1980s before being banned under the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
In the NFL, the league applies racial normalization by comparing a given player’s cognitive test scores with the standard assumed for their demographic.
The « norm, » in this case, assumes that black players have a lower level of brain function than their white teammates.
Lawyers say the standard means that to be eligible for compensation, black players must show a more severe level of cognitive decline than white players.
“It’s classic systemic racism. Just because I’m black, I wasn’t born with fewer brain cells, ”former NFL star Ken Jenkins said.
Black players criticized racial normalization.
The use of the racial standard in NFL brain injury claims was first criticized last year when two former players, Najeh Davenport and Kevin Henry, alleged that the racial standard had prevented them from seeking a compensation earned.
In a joint lawsuit, Davenport and Henry accused the league of discriminating against hundreds of black players.
Davenport claimed a doctor diagnosed him with dementia, but the NFL insisted that his test results be adjusted using the racial standard, which meant his diagnosis was reversed.
The NFL maintained that racial normalization was never mandatory and was used at the discretion of a doctor.
The NFL is committed to ending systemic racism.
Last year, the NFL pledged $ 250 million over a decade to social justice initiatives and expressed support for the movement to end police violence against black Americans.
However, despite the commitment, former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick still has not signed after kneeling during pre-game performances of the national anthem in 2016, to protest against racism.
Thus, many remained critical of the league and its performative activism. That said, the end of normalization of the race and the possibility for black players to finally be properly compensated does offer a silver lining for the future of the league.
Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. To follow his Twitter for more.
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