Duce Staley: “Very insulting” that NFL used race-norming in concussion settlement

On Wednesday, the NFL abandoned an evaluation process for claims in the concussion settlement that used race-norming. On Thursday, a former player and current assistant coach sounded off about the situation.

“It’s insulting, very insulting, for that to even be going on,” Lions assistant head coach Duce Staley told reporters on Thursday. “Now, the NFL is correcting themselves.”

Indeed it is, doing an abrupt about-face on the practice after defending the terms of the settlement for months, consistently calling a lawsuit attacking that aspect of the settlement “entirely misguided.” With the lawyer who represents all former players in the concussion class action admitting that he was wrong to have allowed claims for cognitive impairment to be evaluated with an assumption that Black players start with a lower baseline figure — making it harder to prove impairment — the NFL had no choice but to relent.

On Thursday, the presiding judge in the concussion litigation issued an order requiring the lawyers who filed the lawsuit attacking the lawsuit as discriminatory to be included in the negotiations aimed at reconfiguring the process to reevaluate claims that were denied or limited based on the discriminatory practice. Judge Anita Brody wrote in her order that the lawyers representing Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport “have presented research on the appropriate use of norms, and they may have information that would be useful to the mediation.”

Those lawyers deserve a seat at the table for this process; they dramatically disrupted the status quo. Arguably, they have proven that they are better suited to protecting the interests of the class than the lawyer who has been representing the class for years. It may not be enough for Christopher Seeger to admit he was wrong. To fully get it right now, he may need to step aside.

Ditto for the lawyers representing the NFL. Despite the absence of any evidence (for now) that this happened deliberately, it happened. Is it enough to say “oops” after the fact? Or should there be a broader question asked regarding whether the lawyers who allowed this to happen should no longer be involved in the processing of the settlement?