Monday, July 26, 2021

The NFL’s ‘race-norming’ assessment program another example of scientific racism.

June 17, 2021 by  
Filed under Health, Money, News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( It is a test of will, strength, talent, and ability to play in the National Football League as a player. Football is a brutal and violent sport and the best of the best play in the NFL. The men who play in the NFL challenge their bodies in physically demanding ways to achieve success, acclaim, and riches at the highest level of professional American football in the country. There are other tests associated with the National Football League like the NFL Scouting Combine as a test of physical abilities for incoming prospects and the Wonderlic test, which is a standardized test.

Interestingly, the Wonderlic test remains controversial for many reasons. It has been used by the NFL during the NFL Scouting Combine since in the late 1960s to measure the cognitive ability and problem-solving aptitude of prospective draftees. Like other standardized tests, the Wonderlic test has flaws including favoring those who have socio-economic advantages. It is not surprising that some of the former NFL prospects that attended Ivy League schools have some of the highest Wonderlic scores ever recorded. Unfortunately, there have been some media leaks of low Wonderlic scores of some Black NFL players over the years to embarrass them. Now the National Football League has gotten some bad attention for their recent handling of their assessment of NFL Black retirees.


The general public and sports fans are much more aware of the physical toll of the game of football now than they were 20 years ago. The collisions, head injuries, and concussion issues related to football participants long-term are more understood. The 2015 movie, Concussion, detailed how the National Football League tried to suppress scientific research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy brain degeneration suffered by professional football players. Earlier this year, thousands of retired Black NFL players, their families, and supporters sought to end ‘race-norming’ in a $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims. ‘Race-norming’ is when a “test-taker’s raw score is rated against the results of others in his or her racial or ethnic group”. As it relates to retired professional football players, the settlement said that the NFL insisted on using a scoring algorithm on dementia testing that assumes Black men start with lower cognitive skills. They must therefore score much lower than whites to show enough mental decline to win an award.

Earlier this month, the NFL pledged to stop the use of “race-norming” after a ton of legal pressure. There was pressure from NFL families and former NFL players Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport were among those who made strong cases including filing civil rights lawsuits. Henry and Davenport were both denied awards earlier this year but would have qualified had they been white, according to their lawsuit. Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody dismissed the suit in March on procedural grounds but said the lawyers for Henry and Davenport “have presented research on the appropriate use of norms, and they may have information that would be useful to the mediation.”

It cannot be too surprising that NFL had a discriminatory process in place to judge Black NFL players who are retired than white NFL players who are retired. Black NFL players are being viewed as having lower cognitive abilities than their white counterparts even before they play in an NFL game for the first time. The history of America is replete with scientific racism towards African people. The racism of the medical industrial complex has been a major part of America’s history through horrific events like the Tuskegee experiment, the treatment of Henrietta Lacks, and racist practices like eugenics. With its “race-norming” assessment, the National Football League is as American as America has always been.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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