Lawyers battle over ‘race-norming’ in NFL dementia tests

FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2020, file photo,  the NFL logo is displayed  at midfield during an NFL football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. There are some very rich people about to get a whole lot richer. Who else but NFL owners? Probably within the next week, those 32 multi-millionaires/billionaires will see their future earnings increase exponentially. The league is on the verge of extending its broadcast deals with its current partners, and with a new full-time rights holder in Amazon likely acquiring streaming rights. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, FIle)
FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2020, file photo, the NFL logo is displayed at midfield during an NFL football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. There are some very rich people about to get a whole lot richer. Who else but NFL owners? Probably within the next week, those 32 multi-millionaires/billionaires will see their future earnings increase exponentially. The league is on the verge of extending its broadcast deals with its current partners, and with a new full-time rights holder in Amazon likely acquiring streaming rights. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, FIle) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PHILADELPHIA – The court-appointed lead lawyer for thousands of retired players suing the NFL pledged Monday to try to remove race as a factor in dementia testing, but lawyers for Black players demanded he release the data on payouts by race in the $1 billion concussion settlement.

They argue that Black men are being denied awards that average more than $500,000 because of testing methods that assume Black people have lower cognitive function than white people.

That makes it harder to show they’ve suffered neurological damage linked to NFL concussions.

Lawyers challenging the “race-norming” practice insist they need to be part of the latest round of mediation with the NFL to ensure fairness for Black players, who make up the majority of the 20,000-member class of retired players.

“The devil is always in the details,” said lawyer Cy Smith, whose civil rights challenge to the race-norming practice was thrown out this month by the judge overseeing the NFL case, Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody. He has appealed her decision to a federal circuit court.

“It’s just very hard after the fact to make sure that Black players are carefully represented if you don’t have a seat at the table,” Smith said.

Christopher Seeger, whom Brody appointed to serve as class counsel for the players, clawed back at Smith’s firm in a caustic memo filed Monday. He insisted he could resolve the race-norming issue — which Smith and others say developed on his watch — without their help.

Seeger, in the filing, agreed to seek “purely race-neutral demographic norms” and “investigate whether any class member has been disadvantaged by race norming.”