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Saturday Sports: NFL To End 'Race Norming'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now, as they say on the T-shirt, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: There'll be a seventh game in the Clippers-Mavericks series. The NFL says it'll end a practice that made it harder for Black players to qualify for awards in brain injury settlement. And MLB cracking down on foreign substances, stuff you wouldn't want on your hands either. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Clippers eked out a win against the Mavericks last night to tie the series at three-all - Game 7 tomorrow. But first tonight - there, we got rid of that, OK? Tonight, a matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and fear the deer. Tell us about this series, Tom.

GOLDMAN: Is it safe?

SIMON: Sure, OK.

GOLDMAN: Can I come out?

SIMON: The deer has crossed the intersection. Yes, go ahead. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: A lot of fans are looking forward to this series. You've got the three superstars in Brooklyn - Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving - against a Milwaukee team with MVP-caliber Giannis Antetokounmpo and a much better supporting cast than last season, including the great all-around guard Jrue Holiday. Scott, the Nets are still the betting favorites to win the series and an NBA title, but I think they should fear a deer team that's a lot more complete.

SIMON: Yeah. NFL announced this week it's going to stop the use of race-norming. That's a practice they use to judge players' eligibility for awards in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims. And it astonishingly made it harder for Black players to qualify. Please tell us more.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, you know, a basic explanation here - let's say a Black player and a white player are both being measured for cognitive impairment, like dementia. They both get a score of, say, 25. To get a sense of their decline, you measure that score against their starting cognitive scores. And race-norming assumes the Black player had a lower starting score, meaning he shows less decline and, therefore, gets less money or no award at all. This week, the NFL said in a statement it's committed to finding an alternative way of assessing players. And it'll go back and look at cases that may have been affected by race-norming.

SIMON: You talked to a former player who played a part in this, right?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, I did. Ken Jenkins played in the NFL in the 1980s. He helped gather more than 50,000 signatures on a petition opposing race-norming in the concussion settlement. Jenkins says this week's announcement is a good start, but he wants the NFL to be transparent about how many Black former players were affected. Here he is.

KEN JENKINS: What they haven't said they will do, which is what they absolutely need to do, and we won't be satisfied unless they do it, is to give us all the demographic information of everybody who has filed a claim and who's been awarded and who hasn't been awarded. Then we will know the extent of the problem.

SIMON: Tom, let me ask in the time we have left, Major League Baseball owners might be heading toward strengthening the ban on the use of foreign substances by pitchers. These are no longer spitballs. They're varnish balls, pine tar balls, lotion balls, glue balls. And hitters have been complaining about this for a couple of seasons.

GOLDMAN: A major league team executive told Sports Illustrated this use of sticky stuff should be the biggest scandal in sports. You know, Scott, we've been talking so much about all the no-hitters and pitching dominance. It appears this sticky stuff on baseballs may play a big role. And as you said, MLB is heading toward announcing, you know, enforcing the ban.

SIMON: Let me, before we go - Montana Fouts of Alabama threw a perfect game last night on her 21st birthday in the Women's College Softball World Series - her 21st birthday, so she can have a brewski. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.