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.
“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 laid out racist assumptions behind using “race-norming” to determine brain injuries on Thursday, tweeting: “‘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.”
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.
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, but it has appealed Black players’ claims if their scores were not adjusted for race, according to the AP.
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.
Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Pennsylvania dismissed Davenport and Henry’s lawsuit earlier this year 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.”
He was notably the first player to kneel at NFL games alongside his then-teammate, Colin Kaepernick, to protest racial injustice and police violence in the U.S. Reid and Kaepernick had both settled collusion cases against the NFL in 2019, saying they were blackballed because of their protests.