NFL player Eric Reid slams NFL for ‘Race-Norming’ to determine brain injury payouts
Eric Reid (left) and Colin Kaepernick protested together when they were teammates on the San Francisco 49ers. Photograph: Mike McCarn/AP

A chorus of people on social media, including NFL defensive back Eric Reid, are slamming the NFL this week over its use of “race-norming” to determine players’ eligibility for payouts for their brain injury claims. 

Discussion of the controversial practice reignited this week after the league announced on Wednesday it would stop using the scoring system, which ultimately assumes that Black men start with lower cognitive skills. In other words, the NFL has been operating on the assumption that Black people are inherently less intelligent than whites, thus brain injuries obtained during NFL action were deemed less severe for Black claimants.

“We are committed to eliminating race-based norms in the program and more broadly in the neuropsychological community,” the NFL said in a statement, according to The Washington Post

Reid, a former teammate of Colin Kaepernick who often could be seen kneeling next to Kaepernick in protest of police violence against unarmed Blacks, laid out racist assumptions behind using “race-norming” to determine brain injuries recently via Twitter. Reid tweeted, “‘Race-norming’ = blacks are dumber than whites so the brain injuries they suffered didn’t effect them as traumatically bc they were dumb to begin with.” 

Reid was not the only person raising their voices in protest of the NFL’s controversial practice. Former NFL players Najeh Davenport and Kevin Henry made a similar argument when they sued the league last year, claiming that “race-norming” made Black former football players less likely to be eligible for benefits as part of the NFL’s $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims.

In these tests that use “race-norming,” the scoring algorithm used to determine cognitive impairment requires Black men to score lower than their white counterparts to receive a diagnosis of a brain-related disease because the logic NFL officials used asserted that Blacks started from a lower cognitive point than whites because of their inherent intellectual inferiority.

The controversial practice of “race-norming,” which was designed in the 1990s, is sometimes used in clinical neuropsychology. It uses race as a rough proxy for other factors that can affect someone’s learning. The NFL recently said the practice was developed to “stop bias in testing, not perpetrate it,” The Associated Press reported. 

But neurology experts told the publication that the way race-norming is especially used in tests to determine NFL brain injuries is too simplistic and restrictive. 

The NFL has denied that the practice was ever mandatory, however, according to AP, it has appealed Black players’ claims if their scores were not adjusted for race.

Dr. Art Caplan, a New York University medical ethicist, told the AP last month that he believed the practice is “problematic,” saying that it’s “tied in too closely to racism.”

“It continues to look as if it’s trying to exclude people rather than trying to do what’s right, which is to help people that, clinically, have obvious and severe disability,” he said.

Davenport and Henry’s lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year by Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Pennsylvania, but asked the NFL and the players’ lead lawyer in the brain injury settlement program, Chris Seeger, to investigate the matter through mediation. 

Seeger, who had previously said he had not seen racial bias in the settlement program, has apologized for his previous stance, saying on Wednesday he was “sorry for the pain this episode has caused Black former players and their families.”

Reid, who is currently a free agent seeking tosign with a team for the 2021 season, has a histry of calling out the NFL for its racism, including his stance (kneeling) with Kaepernick.

Reid and Kaepernick had both settled collusion cases against the NFL in 2019, saying they were blackballed because of their protests. Afterwards, Reid continued being employed by the NFL while Kaepernick has yet to play again since the 2017 season, even though he was one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks who led the 49ers to a near Super Bowl victory.

-HuffPost Black Voices