Elena Delle Donne won’t be paid if she sits out WNBA season after medical exemption was denied

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the WNBA has sequestered its teams in a bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in hopes of playing a 22-game regular season. Players can opt out for any reason, but those deemed high risk by doctors will still receive full pay. Those who do not get medical clearance can still choose not to play but will not be paid.

“My personal physician who has treated me for Lyme disease for years advised me that I’m high risk for contracting and having complications from COVID-19,” Delle Donne said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus. “The independent panel of doctors the league appointed to review high risk cases have advised that I’m not high risk, and should be permitted to play in the bubble. I realize a lot of people are thinking about the same thing when they go to work every day, and that I’m luckier than many because I have options. … I’m thinking things over, talking to my doctor and my wife, and look forward to sharing what I ultimately plan to do very soon.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists an array of underlying medical conditions that may cause an increased risk of severe illness from covid-19, but Lyme disease is not among them. A panel of three doctors was put together by the WNBA and its players association to review cases of those concerned about being high risk.

“I appreciate that the league has worked incredibly hard to provide as safe an environment as possible for us to play basketball. I know it’s been a huge effort,” Delle Donne added. “I love my team, and we had an unbelievable season last year, and I want to play! But the question is whether or not the WNBA bubble is safe for me.”

Delle Donne battled back injuries down the stretch last year and had offseason surgery. She averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds and posted a career high in field goal percentage (51.5). The organization had positioned itself to make a run at a second straight title with the addition of 2012 MVP Tina Charles from the New York Liberty. But Charles has also applied to be considered high risk with a preexisting condition, Coach/General Manager Mike Thibault said.

The Mystics are already without two starters: Natasha Cloud, who opted out to spend time focusing on social justice efforts, and LaToya Sanders, who chose to sit out for family and health reasons.

“As with all of our players, we have and will support Elena throughout this process,” Thibault said in a statement. “The health and well-being of our players is of the utmost importance.”

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