The National Football League’s concussion settlement program uses racist guidelines in its medical evaluations, claims a neurologist who once worked with the initiative.
The program, overhauled last decade after an extended court battle, compensates retired players if neurological problems they suffer as a result of their time in the pros are confirmed by a medical exam.
But the NFL has come under fire after two former Pittsburgh Steelers, running back Najeh Davenport and defensive lineman Kevin Henry, sued, claimed they were shut out of compensation because the league required doctors to adjust cognitive testing scores of black players based on race — implying they will necessarily score lower than their white counterparts.
The practice, called race norming, is a “clear example of racism,” according to Dr. Daniel Kantor of Florida Atlantic University, who assessed former NFLers for the settlement program from 2017 to 2019. “The NFL is on the wrong side of this.”
“At first I had no idea what norms were being used,” he told The Post. “What became clear is they used different values if you were a white player or a black player.”
Athletes didn’t know the race norming was being used in the settlement program either, said attorney Aitan Goelman, one of the lawyers repping Davenport and Henry. The program has paid out more than $750 million so far.
“Nobody I’ve talked to knew that this is what they were signing up for,” Goelman said.
Doctors working with the program are required to use preset diagnoses, and if they don’t adjust a patient’s cognitive test scores based on race, the NFL challenges the physician’s assessment, Kantor said,
“If you want to figure out a way to pay as little as possible it’s a great way of doing that,” Kantor said. “It’s not a normal standard.”
Davenport lost out on compensation after the league successfully fought to have his score changed based on his race, Goelman said.
Henry, 52, has suffered memory loss, headaches, depression, emotional volatility and impaired cognitive ability, while Davenport, 41, has experienced similar symptoms along with double vision, sensitivity to light and ringing in his ears, according to court papers.
Robert Heaton, a California clinical psychologist whose research with AIDS patients decades ago is the basis for the “race norming” score adjustments, said the goal “is to give all patients the same likelihood of being correctly classified as normal or ‘abnormal/impaired,’ regardless of whether they are old or young, well-educated or not, male or female, or Black or White (or Hispanic, etc).”
The players, who have often suffered years of concussions, have debilitating symptoms, including memory, anger and thinking problems, Kantor said.
“These people are broken,” he noted.
The NFL told The Post it does not require race to be considered by doctors evaluating former athletes and called allegations of racism “entirely misguided and unfounded.”