June 03, 2021

By Maryclaire Dale

Associated Press

 

The NFL on Wednesday pledged to halt the use of “race-norming” — which assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive function — in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and review past scores for any potential race bias.

The practice made it harder for Black retirees to show a deficit and qualify for an award. The standards were created in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients, but critics faulted the way they were used to determine payouts in the NFL concussion case.

 

Wednesday’s announcement comes after a pair of Black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the practice, medical experts raised concerns and a group of NFL families last month dropped 50,000 petitions at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia — where the lawsuit had been thrown out by the judge overseeing the settlement.

Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody later took the unusual step of asking for a report on the issue. Black retirees hope it will include a breakdown of the nearly $800 million in payouts so far by race. They fear the data will never come to light.

“Words are cheap. Let’s see what they do,” said former Washington running back Ken Jenkins, whose wife Amy Lewis led the petition drive on behalf of NFL friends struggling with cognitive problems. Jenkins, an insurance executive, has so far been spared.

According to the NFL, a panel of neuropsychologists formed recently to propose a new testing regime to the court includes two female and three Black doctors.

“The replacement norms will be applied prospectively and retrospectively for those players who otherwise would have qualified for an award but for the application of race-based norms,” the NFL said in a statement issued Wednesday by spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Lead players lawyer Christopher Seeger, who negotiated the 2013 settlement with the NFL, said earlier this year that he had not seen any evidence of racial bias in the administration of the settlement fund. He amended those remarks Wednesday, apologizing for any pain the program has caused.

“I am sorry for the pain this episode has caused Black former players and their families. 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,” Seeger said in a statement.

The NFL noted that the norms were developed in medicine “to stop bias in testing, not perpetrate it.” And both Seeger and the league said the practice was never mandatory, but left to the discretion of doctors taking part in the settlement program.

However, the NFL appealed some claims filed by Black players if their scores were not adjusted for race.

“If it wasn’t for the wives, who were infuriated by all the red tape involved, it never would have come to be,” Jenkins said of the attention being paid to the issue, three years after lawyers for former Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport say they first raised it.

The binary race norms, when they are used in the testing, assumes that Black patients start with worse cognitive function than whites and other non-Blacks. That makes it harder for them to show a deficit and qualify for an award. Henry and Davenport, for instance, were denied awards but would have qualified had they been white, according to their lawsuit, which Brody dismissed in March, calling it an improper “collateral attack” on the settlement. They have appealed the ruling.

More than 2,000 NFL retirees have filed dementia claims, but fewer than 600 have received awards, according to the most recent report. More than half of all NFL retirees are Black, according to lawyers involved in the litigation.

The awards so far have averaged $516,000 for the 379 players with early-stage dementia and $715,000 for the 207 players with moderate dementia. Retirees can also seek payouts for Alzheimer’s disease and a few other diagnoses. The settlement ended thousands of lawsuits that accused the NFL of long hiding what it knew about the link between concussions and traumatic brain injury.

Category: Sports

June 03, 2021

By City News Service

 

The U.S. is scheduled to begin its second attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in baseball today against Nicaragua in Port St. Lucie, Florida, with a roster including Matt Kemp and three other former Los Angeles Dodgers.

The other former Dodgers on the roster are Edwin Jackson, who pitched for them from 2003-05; infielder Logan Forsythe, who played for them in 2017 and 2018; and catcher Tim Federowicz, who played for them 2011-2014 and now plays for their Oklahoma City Triple-A affiliate.

The roster also includes outfielder Jon Jay, who hit .357 in five games for the Los Angeles Angels this season before being sent to their Salt Lake City Triple-A affiliate.

There are 13 players on the 26-player roster with major league experience, including four who were selected for an All-Star Game -- Kemp, Jackson, infielder Todd Frazier and pitcher David Robertson.

 

Under an agreement with Major League Baseball and the union representing its players, players on teams' 40-man rosters are not eligible to be play in the World Baseball Softball Confederation Baseball Americas Qualification Event .

The team is managed by former Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Its pitching coach is Dave Wallace, the Dodgers' pitching coach from 1995-97 and their senior vice president of baseball operations from 2000-03.

Nicaragua is managed by Marvin Benard, who played for Bell High School, El Camino College and Harbor College before playing for the San Francisco Giants from 1995-2003.

The U.S. is also scheduled to play the Dominican Republic Tuesday at West Palm Beach, Florida, and Puerto Rico at Port St. Lucie, Florida. All three games are set to begin at 4 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time and will be streamed on ESPN+.

The top two teams in each four-team group advance to the Super Round, which will be played Friday and Saturday. The tournament winner will join Israel, Japan, South Korea and Mexico in the Olympic Games, while the second-and third-place finishers will play in the WBSC Baseball Final Qualifier in June in Mexico.

The first attempt by the U.S. to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in baseball ended with a 3-2 loss to Mexico Nov. 17, 2019.

Category: Sports

May 27, 2021

NNPA Newswire

 

The NBA today announced the creation of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, a new annual honor that will recognize a current NBA player for pursuing social justice and upholding the league’s decades-long values of equality, diversity and inclusion.

The award is named after six-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has dedicated his life to the fight for equality. The recipient will have advanced Abdul-Jabbar’s mission to drive change and inspired others to reflect on injustice and take collective action in their communities over the previous year.

The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion honor will select an organization to receive a $100,000 contribution on his behalf. The other four finalists will each select an organization to receive a $25,000 contribution.

 

"I’m honored and grateful to be associated with this award that will recognize the dedicated and selfless people fighting to promote social justice for all marginalized people,” said NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “To me, it’s another giant step in the right direction for the country and all people who value equality.”

“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar exemplifies the values of the NBA and the long history of social activism in our league,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “With this new award, we are proud to recognize and celebrate NBA players who are following Kareem’s lead by using their influence to make a profound impact around important issues of equality and social justice.”

All 30 NBA teams will be eligible to nominate one player from their roster to be the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion. The finalists and winner will be selected by a seven-member committee composed of NBA legends, league executives and social justice leaders.

Abdul-Jabbar has been a champion of inclusivity dating to his youth. At 17, he met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Abdul-Jabbar’s hometown of Harlem, N.Y. Inspired by King’s message, Abdul-Jabbar committed to using his influence as a visible athlete to be an activist during the Civil Rights Movement. He attended the 1967 Cleveland Summit where Bill Russell, Jim Brown and other prominent Black athletes gathered to discuss Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, one of several important moments in the history of Black athlete activism. Abdul-Jabbar has continued to promote equality and combat discrimination in the decades since his retirement from basketball. In 2016, former President Barack Obama awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2009, Abdul-Jabbar created the Skyhook Foundation, aimed at providing educational STEM opportunities to underserved communities.

One of the most accomplished players in NBA history, Abdul-Jabbar holds league records for regular-season MVP awards (six), All-Star Game selections (19) and career points (38,387). He played 20 seasons in the NBA after leading UCLA to three consecutive national championships.

Additional details regarding the inaugural award will be announced at a later date.

Category: Sports

May 27, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

At its best, sports can be an arena where everyone’s differences and skills are respected and prized and can come together in an affirmation of the value of talent, teamwork, perseverance, and discipline, wrote the authors of a new report on racial equity in college sports.

“Yet sadly, that’s often not the case in intercollegiate sports,” continued the authors of the report titled, “Achieving Racial Equity In College Sports.”

 

The report, released by the independent Knight Commission, features a call to the NCAA and its member colleges and universities to improve and enhance the academic performance and career chances of African American athletes who obtain sports-related jobs at much lower rates than Whites.

The Knight Commission, comprised of university administrators and former athletes, focused on racial equity for the report, which also included the experiences of over 80,000 African American athletes who compete in the NCAA.

The report outlined policy changes in four core areas that the NCAA and its member institutions should make to achieve racial equity in sports:

• Closing educational opportunity gaps to create equitable pathways for Black college athletes’ success during and after college.

• Holding institutions accountable in recruitment and hiring to achieve diversity and equity in athletics leadership.

• Investing in programs that support and enhance Black athletes’ college experience and promote inclusion and belonging. 

• Creating more equitable opportunities for Black college athletes to assume leadership roles, especially in advocacy and governance.

The report also calls for the NCAA to dramatically boost financial support for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the Accelerating Academic Success Program.

“The Commission’s report comes in the midst of a historic reckoning on race and a rise in Black student activism on college campuses,” stated former basketball standout Len Elmore, who chaired the Task Force that guided the Knight Commission Report.

“This moment demands transformational actions that specifically improve the college experience for Black athletes, coaches, and athletics personnel throughout all competitive divisions of college sports,” Elmore noted in a news release.

“The Knight Commission’s report lays out a road map for how the CFP, and the NCAA and its member institutions can turn pledges into policies that do just that.”

The Knight Commission urged the NCAA and its member schools to address educational and professional opportunity gaps between Black and White athletes.

The report urged more recruiting and the hiring of minorities and those from underrepresented groups.

The authors said the NCAA also should invest in Black athletes while they are on campus, including pouring resources into programs that support African Americans.

“Both NCAA reform and institutional reform of racial equity policies and procedures are long overdue,” the authors wrote.

“It is time now to pursue a more equitable and socially just model of college sports that provides fairer and more diverse opportunities for all college athletes, including Black athletes.”

The commission plans to hold a public town hall at 2 p.m. EST on Monday, May 24. The virtual event will include a discussion of the report and a question-and-answer session. 

Category: Sports

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