NFL has “a steep slope to climb to make amends” for breed standardization in concussion program: Senator | Connect FM | Local news radio


(NEW YORK) – A powerful lawmaker says the NFL’s efforts to address alleged racial bias in its concussion settlement program fall short of what is owed to former black players.

In comments sent to the office of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) On June 28, league officials outlined their plan to reassess compensation claims that may have been affected by a race-based formula sometimes used. to measure cognitive impairment, which critics say payments have been racially skewed.

Wyden told ABC News that while the league’s current position appears to represent “an improvement” from its previous position, much more transparency is needed.

“The NFL has a steep slope to climb to make amends for its racist policies that denied former black players the benefits they were due and to give clear answers as to how the policy was implemented in the first place.” Wyden said in a statement. “It is unacceptable that the league refuses to reveal how many players have been denied benefits due to its race-based formula.”

The NFL is currently locked in confidential negotiations with lawyers for former players, after the federal judge overseeing the program ordered them to mediate to “address concerns” about its use of racial normalization, a controversial practice used in medicine and in other areas that have come under increased scrutiny following an ABC News investigation earlier this year.

On Friday evening, as an NFL spokesperson prepared a response to ABC News’ questions, the investigating judge overseeing the mediation ordered that “parties and lawyers should not argue with unauthorized persons to participate in the mediation, neither the proposed terms of settlement, nor the state of negotiations while the mediation discussions are in progress.

On Saturday morning, the league spokesperson released a brief statement referring to the order.

“The judge overseeing the mediation has ordered the parties not to discuss the mediation process, and the NFL is complying with that order,” said Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of communications. “While the NFL has not created breed standards, it is committed to prohibiting their use in settlement program evaluations and to ensuring that any applicant whose application has been denied on the basis of breed standards will have their re-noted tests. “

“Regarding the claim that the NFL used racist policies, racial norms were administered by clinicians independent of the settlement program – not the NFL – and were widely accepted and used in clinical practice.” neuropsychological standard at the time of implementation of the settlement agreement, ”added McCarthy.

In February, ABC News discovered emails between clinicians who assessed former NFL players for compensation under the program, in which they claimed they were virtually required to make adjustments based on race to player cognitive test scores and expressed concern that league protocols discriminate against black players.

And an analysis of data from a law firm representing multiple players, also obtained by ABC News, suggests that the practice’s impact on payments could be important, which makes qualifying much more difficult for black players.

A new deal has yet to be reached, but both sides have indicated that they seek to eliminate the race as a factor in future assessments. However, important questions remain about how to deal with past complaints – from former players for whom race was a factor in their denials, as well as former players who never submitted complaints because they were called into question. said they weren’t weak enough to qualify.

NFL officials told the Wyden office that the re-scoring of previously submitted claims would be left to the discretion of the claims administrator.

“The parties anticipate that the final implementation of a revised methodology will not require much, if any, action on the part of retired players,” wrote Brendon Plack, league senior vice president for public policy. and government affairs. “The Neutral Claims Administrator will review claim files submitted through the Monetary Allocation Fund (“ MAF ”) or Basic Assessment Program (“ BAP ”) to determine if a claim should be reassessed. according to the new methodology, and inform the retired players concerned of its conclusions, their rights and the next steps.

Players who have already been tested but have never submitted a claim, league officials said, should be retested under the new protocols and then request a “backdated diagnosis.”

“All retired players, including those who have already been assessed under the MAF program but have not yet submitted a claim, may be re-examined by a qualified MAF physician or undergo a BAP assessment (if eligible) at any time for neurocognitive impairment assessment, ”Plack wrote. “If a qualification diagnosis is made, the retired player can submit a complaint file based on this assessment. … If it is determined that a retired player has undergone a pre-assessment and meets the criteria for a qualifying diagnosis before the date of the re-assessment, the retired player is eligible to receive a monetary reward calculated from the date earlier.

Christopher Seeger, the lawyer representing former NFL players in the mediation, however, took issue with any notion that “the parties” had resolved their differences on this issue.

“The NFL does not speak for me or for the retired NFL class of players, and their response to Senator Wyden does not reflect our position,” Seeger said in a statement released before the judge’s order. “At this point, the only deal we have with the NFL is to eliminate the use of ‘breed standards’ in the claims process going forward. No agreement has been reached on the new scoring of previously submitted claims, and the NFL’s response to Senator Wyden distorts our position. We believe that all claims should be reassessed if a neuropsychologist applied “racial norms”, and if this is not achieved through mediation, we will seek redress in court. “

The league’s position would appear to fall short of Seeger’s previous requests for a more comprehensive reassessment of claims submitted under the program. In an exclusive interview with ABC News, which was featured in a special edition of “Nightline” in June, he said he would not sign a new agreement unless it included two specific provisions.

“For me, the only two outcomes here, without a massive war, are the elimination of racial norms and the ability to go back and look at every claim, every claim, to determine where it was applied,” Seeger said. . “And if he has to be noticed and then compensated, so be it.”

Lawyer Cy Smith, who represents Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, the former black players who requested to intervene in the mediation, also said the NFL’s discussion of the potential terms of a new deal is premature.

“All parties to the current mediation have agreed to keep these discussions confidential, as directed by the court and at the urging of the NFL,” Smith said in a statement also issued prior to the judge’s order. “Because no deal has been reached and these negotiations are continuing under the supervision of the Court, it is surprising and frankly inappropriate for the NFL to suggest that a deal has been reached, or what the terms of it might be. Therefore, we will have no comments at this time.

Senator Wyden, meanwhile, will wait to review the terms of the final deal.

“Regardless of the NFL’s public statements,” Wyden said, “the proof will be in the ultimate results of the mediation process. “

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