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Scott Pioli slams NFL for race-norming of concussion settlement, as payouts to some Black players increase

NBC Sports logo NBC Sports 8/16/2022 Mike Florio
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There’s a lot happening right now in the NFL. Which means that stories that otherwise would ping loudly on the PFT radar screen in the post-draft/pre-camp lull can easily be overlooked.

Here’s one that had a hard time ascending above the noise of the first full weekend of the preseason. And it has drawn a sharp, and gutsy, reaction from a current employee of NFL Network.

The practice of “race-norming” made it far more difficult for Black players to qualify for benefits under the settlement of the concussion litigation. It assumed a lower cognitive baseline for Black players. Impairment, based on current cognitive condition versus the presumptive starting point, became much harder to prove.

That blew up on the league, thanks to the persistent efforts of Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport to push the issue. A report released on Friday showed that nearly half of the 646 Black players whose cognitive tests were rescored qualify for compensation for dementia. Of that amount, 61 have early to moderate dementia; their awards on average exceeded $600,000.

Another 250 players have milder dementia. They’ll receive up to $35,000 for enhanced medical testing and treatment.

As noted by the Associated Press, “thousands” of other Black former players can seek to be rescored or retested. There’s a concern that many former players don’t realize that they can be rescored or retested. If they live alone and/or have cognitive issues, they’re not likely to realize that they have rights that can be pursued, or how to go about pursuing them.

It’s important for the league to help get the word out, too. Of course, it has no financial incentive to do so. With no cap on the total payments that will be made to the former players who can prove a qualifying condition without showing that it ties to football at any level, the league has every reason to minimize any attention given to the issue.

At least one NFL employee is willing to shine a light on the situation. Former NFL G.M. Scott Pioli, who currently works for NFL Network and CBS, called the use of race-norming in the concussion settlement “absolutely despicable and hateful.”

“I’m close to speechless,” Pioli tweeted on Monday night.

Pioli, posting a link to a Deadspin article on the situation, repeats this conclusion regarding the Brian Flores racial discrimination lawsuit, the ongoing use of “coded language” in criticizing Black quarterbacks, and the race-norming wrinkle to the concussion litigation: “It’s all connected.”

Indeed it is. While the league can plausibly claim that it had no idea that a standard adjustment the testing algorithm for race would affect Black players in a negative way, the NFL otherwise seems to be sufficiently strategic and calculating to have reasonably noticed at some point that this uncapped and unlimited liability would be reduced if it’s harder for Black players to prove impairment. With the lawyers representing the players and the court presiding over the settlement not realizing this important facet of the broader formula, it became even easier for the league to sit back and do/say nothing.

The best way to make true amends for the situation would be for the NFL to now fully utilize its various platforms to get the message to former players who may have been affected by prior rules to try again.

Yes, it will cost the league money. But it’s definitely the right thing to do, especially if the league’s recent efforts in recent years to combat racism are anything more than window dressing.

Scott Pioli slams NFL for race-norming of concussion settlement, as payouts to some Black players increase originally appeared on Pro Football Talk

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