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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of retired Black NFL players want to end the race-adjusted system used to determine cognitive decline among claimants in the league's near-billion-dollar concussion settlement.

Why it matters: The test is scored on a curve that assumes Black people's baseline cognitive skills are lower than white people's, meaning Black players must show a larger cognitive decline to qualify for the settlement.

The backdrop: In 2013, the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement in response to a flood of lawsuits from retired players alleging the league concealed what it knew about the dangers of repeated head trauma.

  • The $765 million cap has since been removed, and nearly $848 million has been awarded to 1,256 retired players to date.

How it works: Those who claim their careers led to dementia or similar cognitive diseases are required to undergo medical testing to determine if the extent of cognitive decline makes them eligible for compensation.

  • An independent physician evaluates these claimants by testing things like their processing speed and visual perception. The test is graded on a curve depending on demographic factors, including race.
  • In other words, the same score by a Black and white player could net the latter hundreds of thousands of dollars while the former sees his claim denied entirely.

The origins: This methodology originated in the early 1990s, when Robert Heaton studied how socioeconomic factors can affect health. To create his race-based protocol, he used a small group of Black people from San Diego — hardly a representative sample.

Ken Jenkins in 1986. Photo: Owen C. Shaw/Getty Image

Driving the news: Former running back Ken Jenkins delivered a 50,000-signature petition to the judge presiding over the settlement last week, demanding Black players receive equal treatment.

  • That same judge two months ago dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought against the NFL regarding the potentially discriminatory practice, though she did commission a report to further explore it.

What they're saying: "We are investigating whether any claims have been impacted by a physician's decision to apply such an adjustment," Chris Seeger, class counsel for the players, told AP.

  • "If we discover an adjustment has been inappropriately applied, I will fight for the rights of Black players to have those claims rescored."

The other side: "There is no merit to the claim of discrimination," the NFL told Axios in a statement. "The availability of demographic adjustments was designed to avoid misdiagnosis of healthy individuals as cognitively impaired."

  • "The NFL nevertheless is committed to helping find alternative testing techniques that will lead to diagnostic accuracy without employing race-based norms."

Go deeper

3,000 unruly passenger reports made to FAA this year

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Airlines have reported some 3,000 cases of unruly behavior by passengers to the Federal Aviation Administration this year — including 2,300 for refusing to comply with face mask mandates, the FAA announced Monday.

Why it matters: Passenger numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels. But the FAA is investigating the highest number of suspected federal law violations since it began recording unruly passenger incidents in 1995, per ABC News.

Cashier killed after face mask policy dispute in Georgia grocery store

An Atlanta area grocery store cashier was killed and three other people were injured in a shooting following a dispute over a face mask policy in the supermarket Monday, police said.

Driving the news: DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox said during a news conference that the female cashier was working at the Big Bear Supermarket in Decatur when she was shot following a "confrontation" over the wearing of masks.

House panel to investigate Trump-era DOJ data seizures

Photo: James Devaney via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee will launch a formal probe into the Trump-era Justice Department's seizure of data from devices belonging to members of Congress, their aides, journalists and then-White House counsel, panel chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced Monday.

Why it matters: Though it's so far unclear if the cases are related, they raise "serious constitutional and separation of power concerns," Nadler said in a statement.