Race Norming Explained: How the NFL Dropped the Ball in Concussion Payouts and Protocol

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Once again, the National Football League (NFL) is profusely apologizing for its past actions. The NFL’s programming includes some of the most-watched events in the history of TV and streaming. With all that attention, controversy won’t be far. In 2021, the league announced that it will end the controversial practice of race-norming.

Although the league wasn’t supportive of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests, the NFL has made some attempts to support Black players and draw more attention to racial justice in recent years. The NFL has been working with figures like Jay-Z to help improve their relationship with people of color. Today, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is performed before every game prior to the national anthem.  

The NFL also implemented a vaccine mandate, joining the WNBA as one of two top-tier sports leagues with vaccine mandates. The move may have been controversial with certain players, but the gestures the league is making in the name of player and fan safety isn’t going unnoticed.

But these first steps have been soured by prior problematic actions taken by the NFL. This builds on the NFL’s concussion settlement, which originally went into effect in 2017. The league has paid out more than a billion dollars to former players so far, but most of that money has gone to white players. Why is that? Well, it’s recently come to light that the NFL used the racist practice of race norming in the concussion settlement process, proving how pervasive medical racism remains today. Here, we’ll walk you through what happened.