Former Steelers running back Najeh Davenport and defensive end Kevin Henry filed a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday that alleges the NFL attempted to make it less likely black players would be fairly compensated under the settlement of its concussion lawsuit with former players.
Davenport, played with the Steelers from 2006-08 and also spent time with the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts in a seven-year NFL career. Henry spent eight seasons in Pittsburgh from 1993-2000 after being drafted in the fourth round out of Mississippi State and played in Super Bowl XXX with the team.
The lawsuit alleges that the NFL used separate criteria for judging mental degradation in black and white athletes, making it more likely for white players to receive benefits.
“The NFL’s administration of the settlement created a black door and a white door for benefits, in which former players with identical test scores get different treatment — solely on the basis of race,” Cy Smith, lead counsel for the players, said to the New York Times. “This approach was not required by the settlement and the NFL is fully aware of its discriminatory impact on Black players. The NFL has a choice to make: live up to its word and treat Black players like their lives matter, or continue pushing them aside.”
According to the Times, the NFL called the lawsuit “misguided” and pointed out that the process was vetted by a federal judge.
The NFL originally settled with its former players in 2013 and agreed to pay out over $750 million to players that suffer neurological conditions from playing professional football. The settlement has been regarded as controversial overall, and there have been several attempts from players to re-litigate portions of it.
The suit was filed in federal court in Philadelphia.