Race-norming is a practice in which a player's race is factored into dementia testing, the result of which led to fewer Black players qualifying for a settlement payout, which average $500,000 or more. The practice assumes Black players have a lower cognitive function to begin with, making it more difficult to prove they suffered cognitive impairment from playing football.
According to reports, the new dementia testing guidelines were developed over the course of months with players, the league, and legal counsel and will remain confidential until a federal judge reviews it. For the 1,435 mostly Black players, this means they won't know how the guidelines will impact them. They also won't know if their previous tests will be rescored using the new formula or if they'll have to go through more cognitive testing.
"The NFL should be really enraged about the race norming. ... That should be unacceptable to them and all of their sponsors," Roxanne Gordon, wife of former Cleveland Browns defensive end Amon Gordon, told News 10 Philadelphia.
Gordon's wife says the 40-year-old Stanford University graduate is unable to work and has qualified for the dementia reward twice only to have the decision overturned for unknown reasons. His case is currently being reviewed in a federal appeals court in Philadelphia.
"If the new process eliminates race-norming and more people qualify, that's great," Ken Jenkins, a Black retired NFL player told the outlet. While Jenkins doesn't personally suffer from dementia, he advocates on behalf of those who do and is an insurance executive.
"(But) we're not going to get everything we wanted," Jenkins added. "We want full transparency of all the demographic information from the NFL –– who's applied, who's been paid."
An estimated 20,000 NFL retirees registered for the program, which provides monitoring, testing, and sometimes compensation. Nearly 2,000 retirees applied for dementia awards, and only 30% have received them. Jenkins and other advocates want to know how many of those who've been paid are Black.
It's unclear right now if that information will be made public but Jenkins and others have requested the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to launch an inquiry into the matter.