Before we address the NFL's pitiful, shameful and inadequate statement saying it is ending race-norming, while failing to do what it should, which is apologize, let's make sure we completely understand how the NFL used race-norming as a weapon.
Before the NFL used it, race-norming was developed as a way of accounting for racial bias in testing, as well as other reasons. But in typical NFL fashion, it found a way to monetize race-norming in a truly grotesque way.
The league used race-norming following the historic concussion settlement in 2013. Race-norming assumed Blacks started out with lower cognitive functioning than their white counterparts in the settlement. The practice essentially made it difficult for Black players to show cognitive impairment and thus qualify for a monetary award.
The league says race-norming was never mandatory, but that's simply semantics, because the NFL appealed some claims filed by Black players if their scores weren't adjusted for race.
The NFL has announced that it will end race-norming. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
So, to be clear, this is what the NFL did:
1. It used race-norming.
2. It was utilized as a money-saving scheme by denying the claims of Black players in a league that's approximately 70 percent Black.
3. It stopped the practice only after it was caught.
So on Wednesday, when the NFL said it was ending race-norming, that isn't even close to enough.
This wasn't the Tuskegee experiments, but it was an extremist, foul and ugly practice by the league that might have stripped money from possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of players, and may have saved the NFL millions of dollars.
The NFL says a panel of experts that includes three Black doctors will propose new testing protocols.
“The replacement norms will be applied prospectively and retrospectively for those players who otherwise would have qualified for an award," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy in a statement, "but for the application of race-based norms."
The fact the NFL didn't apologize in its statement is one of the great disgraces in the history of the league. And the NFL cannot, in any way, be trusted to give players the money they deserve retroactively.
And I don't want to hear about the possible legal ramifications the NFL could face. This is bigger than any of that.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who loves hugging players at the draft, should stand at a podium, apologize and take questions from the media. He should meet with some of the families impacted by race-norming. He won't do any of that, but he should.
Notice, the lawyer for the players, Christopher Seeger, who negotiated the original settlement, did apologize.
“I am sorry for the pain this episode has caused Black former players and their families," he said in a statement to the Associated Press. "Ultimately, this settlement only works if former players believe in it, and my goal is to regain their trust and ensure the NFL is fully held to account."
If Seeger can apologize, why can't the NFL?
The NFL has done numerous shady things to its players over the decades. One of them was hiding the true impact of concussions in the first place.
That was bad, but this is even worse. Because the league, while staring at its Black players while talking about "Football is family," used their race against them in one of the ugliest ways, basically stealing from some of them while they were vulnerable, after hiding the impact of head trauma from them for years.
There is a special place in hell for people who do this.
The sad part of this, one of the most angering parts, is we may not know just how many players were truly impacted by race-norming. It's entirely possible, if not probable, that some of the players died waiting after the NFL appealed their cases using race-norming.
The true scope of the damage the NFL did to its own players, to its own Black players, may never be known.
Which is why apologizing is the least the NFL can do.
The very, very least.
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