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Racial Disparities in the NFL

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

After recent evidence has come to light from the NFL’s concussion settlements, two former NFL players have accused the organization of racial discrimination. Many NFL players filed dementia-related claims in the concussion settlements, but it has been discovered that the NFL was using benchmarks based on the players' race to decide on the legitimacy of the players' claims. These scores are then used to decide how much money the player will be given; ultimately, this has prevented many players from receiving the money they deserve.

These neurological tests take race into account by normalizing the false notion that Black people have lower benchmark scores than white people. Therefore, according to the New York Times, “Black players have to show steeper cognitive declines to qualify for a payout.”

The tests Black and white players are given are the same, however, their scores are interpreted differently based on race. This is not an isolated instance, as the NFL has been accused of being a systemically racist organization in the past. Earlier this year, ”recently fired Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is Black, filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL alleging racial discrimination in hiring processes across the league,” according to NBC News. Although the majority of players in the NFL are people of color, the majority of coaches are white.

The NFL has come out against the lawsuit and claimed that they are taking race into account in order to ensure everyone is treated family, and therefore, it is not a form of racial discrimination. However, many lawyers believe that determining who receives money and benefits based on race is unlawful.

Najeh Davenports, one of the two former NFL players who filed the lawsuit, experienced this racism regarding the concussion settlement process. After facing 10 concussions in the NFL, Davenport retired. Later on, he began to experience memory loss and depression. His original neurological exam determined that Davenport was eligible for compensation. However, the scale used for Black players specifically was not used in this evaluation, so the NFL decided that when they accounted for his race, he was not eligible for compensation.

Although this situation reveals racism within the NFL, it further demonstrated the racial inequity within the health care system in the United States. For decades, Black people and other people of color have been treated unfairly by the health industry, which has developed in deep-seated mistrust.

The NFL needs to take this opportunity to take a look at the inequities and inequalities within their organization and find ways to create a more inclusive environment by fixing their mistakes.


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