How the NFL’s Concussion Settlement Marginalizes Black Athletes

The NFL has found itself in a lawsuit coming from retired Black athletes, who claim that the administration of the league’s concussion settlement discriminates against Black athletes. Former players Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport claim that the testing automatically assumed Black players’ cognitive test scores were lower, making them ineligible for the money owed to them, in a concept known as “race-norming.”

The lawsuit was settled with over $1 billion going to the former players. The news of the lawsuit came with outcries of shock and surprise at a league that could do something so outrageously racist it would make George Wallace shudder. However, I wasn’t as shocked as I was disappointed.

Marginalizing Black people in the medical industry is as American as football itself. In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academics of Science, over half of white doctors studied believe that Black people have thicker nerve endings and skin. In addition, 20 percent of white doctors believe that the nerve endings on Black people are less sensitive than their white counterparts. This embedded implicit bias makes itself evident when Black patients complain about pain.

In the NFL, these beliefs are even more evident when examining how a league with predominantly Black players are attended to by predominantly white trainers. VICE’s TV series Dark Side of Football outlines the serious injuries that players had, and the painkillers they took to mitigate that. Concussions are the main culprit, and the side effects after playing in the league often resulted in death.

The NFL has gone to extreme lengths to reduce the number of concussions, from new helmets to entirely new rules. So the big question is, if the NFL cares about concussions and recovery so much to change the rules, then why aren’t Black players getting the money they deserve in settlements?

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SOURCE: SB Nation, JP Acosta