WNBA champion and two-time most valuable player, Elena Delle Donne, revealed that she her request to sit out the upcoming season, due to medical risk, has been rejected league.
Delle Donne, who has suffered from Lyme disease for more than a decade, was anticipating receiving a medical exemption that guarantees players their full salaries if they are deemed high-risk regarding the potential impact of the coronavirus. Della Donne declared that that her personal doctor “advised me that I’m at high risk for contracting and having complications from COVID-19.”
As a result of the leagues decision however, Delle Donne, who is the star player for the defending champions, the Washington Mystics, will now not be paid if she chooses not to play.
The decision to deny her the waiver came from a panel of doctors, selected jointly by the league and the players’ union.
“The league’s panel of doctors — without ever once speaking to me or to either of my doctors — informed me that they were denying my request for a health exemption,” Delle Donne wrote in an essay published in The Players’ Tribune. “I’m now left with two choices: I can either risk my life … or forfeit my paycheck.”
She wrote: “I was told that when it came down to it, it would be impossible to keep Covid-19 out of the bubble entirely. And then Florida cases started rising.”
Delle Donne noted that she takes 64 pills a day for her condition. “That’s 25 before breakfast, another 20 after breakfast, another 10 before dinner, and another 9 before bed.
The WNBA plans to hold this shortened season in Bradenton, Florida and is set to start on July 25. Like other professional leagues, it will test players for the coronavirus, keep them in a “bubble” to reduce the risk of transmission and not allow fans at games.
Delle Donne is perhaps the biggest star in the league. The 6-foot-5 is the reigning MVP and the driving force in Washington’s 2019 championship run. She averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds and was the first player in WNBA history to join the 50/40/90 club.
On Wednesday, Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said that they will continue to pay and support Delle Donne despite the leagues decision.
“The fact of the matter is the Mystics organization will never put Elena’s — or any other of our players’ — health and well-being in jeopardy at any time.”