NFL exposed in race norming in $1 billion concussion settlement
June 7, 2021 11:56 AM   Subscribe

NFL exposed to millions The NFL is busted for a racist notion that Black players are less intelligent cognitively than white or Hispanic players in a bombshell......... "PHILADELPHIA -- The NFL on Wednesday pledged to halt the use of "race-norming" -- which assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive functioning -- in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and to review past scores for any potential race bias. The practice had made it harder for Black players to show a deficit and qualify for an award. The standards were designed in medicine in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients, but critics faulted the way they were used to assess legal damages in the NFL case."
posted by Broncos 1999 (52 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was going to pull together a few links about the NFL and racism, but there are just so many: the Wonderlic test, the Washington team, Colin Kaepernick, the relationship with Fox, the flirtation with Rush Limbaugh, the Trumpist team owners (not all of them, but quite a few), stadiums (and gentrification, and public money)... it's a whole thing.

Football's a very fun sport to watch, especially on tv, but I don't watch it any more, because I can't manage to look past all the negative stuff that comes with it.
posted by box at 12:22 PM on June 7 [22 favorites]


As a non-USA-nian, I find American football unbearably boring and distasteful in its making a spectacle of concussions and injuries.

The fact that the NFL is a racist institution is hardly surprising in a country built on genocide, slavery, racism and exploitation.

What I am excited about is the wave of acknowledging the racism - it gives me hope to see that along the people fighting to keep the exploitation in place there are forces fighting to acknowledge, overcome and heal it.
posted by andreinla at 12:30 PM on June 7 [15 favorites]


Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a friend of Chris Christie and Boomer Esiason, and someone who has spent billions to buy a championship since 1995 (their last championship), and has shown nothing for it, probably won't believe the story.

Jones, Kraft (New England Patriots owner), John Elway (Former Broncos quarterback turned football executive) probably won't believe this story....
posted by Broncos 1999 at 12:45 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I'm a key part of their demographic and I've gone from devoted fan to absolute hater over the last 10 years. From the high school to the professional level the game has just been exposed as a toxic shit show and those in charge are incapable of change.
posted by interogative mood at 12:52 PM on June 7 [27 favorites]


I saw this news the other day and it just made me so....sad, I guess...that there's this bottomless well of contempt and hate in the NFL.

I'm not a football fan by any measure, but to see an institution that's among the very most-popular entertainment businesses in America be so, so vile makes me wish we had something else in its place. How much healthier a country might we be without actual gladiators on television, three nights a week?
posted by wenestvedt at 12:55 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I'm not surprised by the racism, but I am surprised by the broad brush used when the NFL has the Wonderlic score for essentially all of its players. You don't need to guess at the players' baseline cognitive ability. They took a sort of speed-dating version of the SAT when you scouted them. Just use that. What am I missing?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:55 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


It's a game that lifts a lot of poor and moderate income men out of poverty. Places like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana are filled with young men of all races/groups who aspire to be professional football players.....look at Antonio Brown, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis, etc.

NFL is a pipeline for talented players, but they get brutalized because of the brutality of the sport.

Look at the downfall of Lawrence Taylor (L.T.), arguably the greatest NFL player of all time.
posted by Broncos 1999 at 1:04 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I was listening to the new Planet Money podcast on college football over the weekend ('Amateur Hour') about how the NCAA screws over college players. Basically every time the NCAA person spoke I let out an involuntary 'fuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuu!' On the bright side, the ENTIRE supreme court seems to agree, based on their lines of questioning. Screwing over the little guy gets the liberal justices unhappy, and abusing monopsony power pisses off the right-wing judges.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:10 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


And those people avoiding teaching systemic racism, legislating that discussion out of schools, there is a not so special place in time and hell for you.
posted by Oyéah at 1:14 PM on June 7 [11 favorites]


They took a sort of speed-dating version of the SAT

Both the SAT and the Wonderlic have been accused of bias on the basis of race and language barriers. Maybe that causes more problems than it solves.

I think the most important factor here is what happened on the field. How long did they play, what injuries did they sustain, what equipment were they using and how protective was it, etc. Anything else I think would have real issues, because you are trying to reverse engineer data that you probably don't have, and certainly cannot standardize.
posted by kaelynski at 1:16 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


It's a game that lifts a lot of poor and moderate income men out of poverty.
No, it's a game that lifts an incredibly small number of poor and moderate income men (and only men) out of poverty, while simultaneously providing society a feel-good narrative about opportunity and how success inevitably comes to those who simply try hard enough.

I'm happy for the few who escape poverty by this route if it's their only option, but maybe we could have opportunities for class advancement that aren't quite so arbitrary and don't require many times more aspirants to be chewed up and spit out by the system than ever succeed.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:25 PM on June 7 [130 favorites]


I am not a fan of football, and never was, but somebody I follow on Twitter, a black man, wrote of this news, "The Kaepernick stuff put a bad dent in my love of football. This has killed it." My sympathy is with all the fans who loved something, all the players who aspired to something, all the journalists who chronicled something that fundamentally did not deserve any of those things. It's a terrible thing to learn you've invested a piece of yourself in something that wasn't what you thought it was.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:25 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


The most disturbing part of all this to me is that the majority of NFL teams are partially bankrolled by state and municipal governments that throw all kinds of money and tax breaks at them. If they are going to get that money (and they really shouldn't) it should come with big huge giant "DONT BE RACIST or we take all the money back" strings attached.
posted by srboisvert at 1:26 PM on June 7 [17 favorites]


I was expecting it to be about black players not getting to be quarterbacks. The actual story is considerably worse.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:29 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Wow. Here I thought there was no way I'd ever be shocked by NFL depravity, but here we are. Unbelievable.
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:30 PM on June 7 [11 favorites]


The long term physical injuries and the brain damage suffered by a disturbingly high percentage of high school football players means that football actually just helps keep poor and moderate income men poor.
posted by interogative mood at 1:30 PM on June 7 [39 favorites]


I'm done with the NFL. There really isn't an ethical way to consume their product.
posted by East14thTaco at 1:35 PM on June 7 [14 favorites]


Then explain how Jerry Jones lifted guys like Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders out of poverty by paying them multi-millions to play football?
posted by Broncos 1999 at 1:44 PM on June 7


Even knowing the NFL is a racist institution I wasn't prepared for this level of racism.
posted by subdee at 1:47 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Then explain how Jerry Jones lifted guys like Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders out of poverty by paying them multi-millions to play football?

So your counterargument to "football only helps a handful of people out of poverty" is to start naming them all?
posted by pwnguin at 1:52 PM on June 7 [61 favorites]


Broncos 1999 made this post but now seems to be defending the NFL, so I'm not sure what their intentions are here.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:53 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I'm not defending the NFL, they are a putrid organization that knows how to push entertainment on people, but what I am saying is that the NFL lifts people out of poverty, sadly, despite the gladiator tactics and game play.
posted by Broncos 1999 at 1:56 PM on June 7


Also please remember that the NFL chews up and spits out plenty of poor and/or moderate income men who only got to play for a season before they were forced to quit being professional football players due to catastrophic injuries. I have worked with more than a handful of former NFL players at my regular degular day jobs, and I guess they were "lifted out of poverty" if "making $35,000 a year at a random nonprofit in a non-athletics related job because you permanently destroyed your knee playing for the Balitmore Ravens" counts as being "lifted out of poverty".
posted by all about eevee at 1:58 PM on June 7 [32 favorites]


Mod note: Hey folks - if you want to make a "The NFL lifts people out of poverty" post please feel free to, otherwise this kind of seems like a post about racism and head injuries that is going in an odd direction.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on June 7 [14 favorites]


Not defending the NFL here at all. This is total racist bullshit. However...

ALL professional sports have a tendency to chew up and spit out the athletes. NFL way more than others, but you name a sport, and there are any number of players who suffer catastrophic, career-ending injuries, that effect them the rest of their lives. Hell, I play over-40 indoor soccer for FUN, and suffered a random torn ACL that has massively impacted my quality of life. And probably have had a couple of concussions as well, (goalkeeper here). And yet, now that the pandemic is receding, am looking forward our season starting back up again in July. The opportunity to get paid, to play a sport that you love, is pretty enticing. Especially to get paid a lot of money, compared to many other professions.

Feels like the "lol sportsball" attitude of Metafilter is making this a giant pile on. Players love to play. Fans, like to watch. Owners like to make massive amounts of profit. We could level a ton of the same charges against, and we often do, about any number of jobs. Meat-packers, developers working 80 hour weeks, restaurant and grocery workers having to work unsafely throughout the pandemic...

And racism applies over an awful lot of these other industries, and the problems with them as well.

Was typing this when you posted jessamyn, delete if this is extending the derail
posted by Windopaene at 2:25 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


windopaene, if you think this is about the brain injuries, you've entirely missed the point
posted by kokaku at 2:31 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


The standards were designed in medicine in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients

Yes? How do we treat Black dementia patients, now that it's come up?
posted by clew at 2:34 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


I’m not sure what it would take for me to stop watching the NFL.

They moved my team (to Tennessee, shudder!). I’ve cheered for at least two players who went on to murder people. There’s the weird stuff with the Pats, which I don’t even know what to make of. Extending the season for no good reason. Non-guaranteed contracts. Lotta rich old white guys running the show.

But I’m going to keep watching it anyway. I guess they know what they’re doing. Maybe it’s fantasy. Not going to stop doing that either.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:34 PM on June 7


It was the Ray Rice thing for me. Other than a few Super Bowls, which I watched because I got invited to parties, I haven't seen a full game since 2014.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:48 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Honestly? COVID got me to stop watching the NFL, for the most part. At least to not follow my hometown Iggles week-to-week.

The entire ramshackle season, games being delayed and teams being crippled by outbreaks... the insistence on WE MUST PLAY NO MATTER WHAT turned me off of following any of the major sports this past year. At some point, maybe it'll come back to me. It hasn't yet.

The closest thing to organized sport that I've been watching is Japanese pro wrestling, streamed and performed without an audience in an emptied-out dentist's office, personified by a freelance-writer-turned-wrestler with a galaxy-sized heart but muscles like limp noodles. It's a "Let's put on a show" spirit that just seems like the complete inverse of US pro sports right now.

And this? The filthy underside of the NFL exposed to daylight for the 275th time? Not just thinly disguised racism disguised as PATRIOTIC AMERICAN VALUES ala the Kaepernick affair, but flat-out Bell Curve racism to deny injured players benefits?

Nah. They can keep it.
posted by delfin at 2:59 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


I'm glad you posted this because I know someone who has been obviously suffering from traumatic brain injury symptoms since he was a high school star football player but since his family doesn't believe that knocking your head all around can actually hurt your brain at all, they just treat him like a weirdo who just can't get his shit together for mysterious reasons that no one can explain and/or oops bad luck, guess you just drew the bad brain card, sorry.

At least getting it out there that even your NFL gods themselves have acknowledged that yes if you knock a brain into its casing too much there will be effects, maybe it will change their minds.
posted by bleep at 3:02 PM on June 7 [13 favorites]


And of course it just goes without saying that even in their attempt to address the fact that their major activity hurts people, they absolutely must have gone about it in the most racist possible way, because there was no other way for them to do anything. I swear to god this country.
posted by bleep at 3:03 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


> I’m not sure what it would take for me to stop watching the NFL.

For me, it was getting a concussion and then having post-concussion syndrome and chronic pain for several years. I can't just sympathetically wince and then go back to cheering the game, any more.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:37 PM on June 7 [16 favorites]


> Feels like the "lol sportsball" attitude of Metafilter

I see this accusation from time to time but I don't actually see any "lol sportsball"ing. There are people who don't like football, which is a valid opinion to have. Here we are in a discussion about football and you're accusing us of not discussing football. It's odd.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:52 PM on June 7 [19 favorites]


If NFL doesn't want to get piled on maybe they should start acting better.
posted by bleep at 3:55 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


It is all about racism, I get it.

They play a brutal sport. Hard to take the injuries, (brain or otherwise), out of what the game is. Have you watched Rugby? Holy shit. How do they act better in all the other troublesome actions of the NFL?

And I did mention I have had a lot of head injuries, (only bone I've broken so far is my skull), and body injuries, and many balls/elbows/foreheads to the face/head. So I am aware of, and a bit worried for myself, the brain injury.

Yet I just can't wait to play again. Sorry for continuing to sort of derail.
It's Capitalism...

But lots of people do enjoy it, as it is an insanely complicated sport.
And you can bet on it.
And tailgate.

(has never bet, tailgated at, or gone to a game in my adult life)
But... Go Hawks!
posted by Windopaene at 4:05 PM on June 7


I just don't think a gigantic multi-million dollar enterprise needs to have its delicate sensibilities coddled from people being too mean online.
posted by bleep at 4:07 PM on June 7 [22 favorites]


“The standards were designed in medicine in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients.”

Oh, our bad! We weren’t trying to be racist to football players, just vulnerable black dementia patients instead. Sorry!
posted by Jubey at 4:30 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


Glad to see the attempt to keep the focus on the racism, as it’s always damn hard not to have this topic not get derailed by either people wanting to defend or condemn the sport in general. It doesn’t matter if this was curling we were talking about - for a sport where black athletes are front and center, this kind of deep, pervasive, cynical racism is beyond awful. The NFL adds nothing to sport other than increasing pain to maximize their profits. Wipe it out.
posted by q*ben at 4:31 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


Mod note: few more removed - this is a discussion thread not a "Offer a position and then argue against it" exercise.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:18 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


The ALAB Series podcast had a shocking episode on the use of race-norming in the calculation of damages. It sounds like a pervasive problem in the law.
posted by Ptrin at 6:20 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


Look at how the press and French Open staff treated Naomi Osaka vs Roger Federer. The inability of sports to deal with racism in their management even after so many if their stars are people of color is very depressing.
posted by interogative mood at 7:00 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


What ..... year is it, even?

NFL owes since serious reparations. And those reparations aren't theoretical - they're quantifiable, with easily identified victims or heirs. Sure hope some accountant is on it somewhere. Make it fucking rain.
posted by Dashy at 7:13 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Right. Fuck the NFL, this time, i hope they just scrooged and bean-counted their way into some large lawsuits. If they have Garrett Hardin'd and skull-measured and laid out the statistical method for their racism, that's a big invitation for someone to run the model backwards.

Don't get mad, make them pay.

Can we get some state AGs on this?
posted by eustatic at 8:08 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


I need some kind of “Outraged But Not Surprised” graphic for these situations.

These fuckers are taking in billions a year on the literal backs and bodies of their players. Yes, some of them are paid extremely well, but with the constant knowledge that it can all end in a heartbeat. And this is obviously considered a feature rather than a bug by the people running the show, or the gameplay would have been changed to be safer.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:25 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


How?

How can you make this game safer? It is inherently unsafe. Giant athletes pounding each other in the way that football does can never be made safe. Rules have changed to prevent hitting defenseless receivers, and have tried to protect QBs. But, it is a hard contact sport. You can try to legally abolish it, but you can't make it safer.
posted by Windopaene at 9:36 PM on June 7


The ALAB Series podcast had a shocking episode on the use of race-norming in the calculation of damages. It sounds like a pervasive problem in the law.

Yes. And in medicine generally. This Slate discussion of the issue is pretty good (transcript if you would rather read than listen).
posted by charmedimsure at 11:01 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


How? Granted, I know very little about sports. But I assume it would involve 1. Identifying the actions that cause the most traumatic brain injuries, and B. not doing those particular things anymore.

Kind of like in the Star Trek: TNG episode “The First Duty,” where we find out that too many pilots have died doing the Kolvoord Starburst, so Starfleet no longer allows it to be part of precision flying teams’ routines.

Here’s a list of rule changes the NFL has implemented to increase safety over the years. Somehow the industry has survived.

But at the very least, if these life-altering injuries are to continue, all workers who suffer the same injury need to be eligible for the same compensation.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:17 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


Race norming is a fucked up practice, and the NFL is a fucked up organization.

One of the most bizarre things about this whole story is that the most commonly used cognitive tests (e.g. the Montreal Cognitive Assessment) are not race normed at all. You get a make-up point for less than 12 years education, that's it. (There is definitely racial bias baked in to that and other tests, though.)

The other most bizarre thing is that even on this sketchy race-normed test I've never heard of, they already had a player's pre-draft score on file. So why are they using a generic threshold score instead of a much more meaningful percentage change from baseline? Or is the problem that the pre-test is inappropriately skewed low so it's harder to reflect a real change in cognitive function?
posted by basalganglia at 2:22 AM on June 8 [7 favorites]


So, if I'm understanding this situation correctly, it's actually the unforeseen and even more racist result of an anti racist attempt at "eliminating cultural bias"?
posted by cinchona at 4:50 AM on June 8


Feels like the "lol sportsball" attitude of Metafilter

I was a Divison 1 athlete in college, so no, not lol sportsball. I just hate the NFL for legitimate reasons.
posted by all about eevee at 4:59 AM on June 8 [9 favorites]




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