Washington Mystics star forward and reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne said a group of league physicians denied her request for a medical exemption that would allow her to skip the 2020 season, according to a report from ESPN published Monday night.
Delle Donne said the league physicians' denialgoes against the advice of her personal physician, who cautioned that she could be at high risk of suffering from COVID-19 because of her battle with chronic Lyme disease. The 30-year-old still could decide to opt out, but because of the league physicians' decision, she would have to forfeit her salary.
If the league accepted Delle Donne's opt-out request on medical grounds, she would have been paid in full for the season.
"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," Delle Donne said in a statement released to ESPN on Monday.
"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. My personal physician who has treated me for Lyme disease for years advised me that I'm at high risk for contracting and having complications from COVID-19.
"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."
A WNBA spokesperson did not respond to ESPN's request for comment, but the network reported that Lyme disease is not included among the Centers for Disease Control's list of underlying conditions that can make someone particularly vulnerable to the virus.
However, the Mystics' team physician wrote to the league's physician panel advising that Delle Donne should be considered higher risk, according to the player's agent, Erin Kane.
"When I talked to Elena, her initial reaction was disbelief," Kane said to ESPN. "I know doctors don't always agree with each other and that there are different opinions on certain things within the medical community and now I have a player who is in an incredibly difficult situation because of the way things lined up. ...
"It's still possible she'll opt out. Like a lot of people, she's making a choice between what's best for her from a health standpoint and what's best for her from a financial standpoint for her and her family."
Delle Donne averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in 31 games with the Mystics last season. She is a two-time MVP (2015, 2019) and a six-time All-Star. Her career average of 20.2 points per game ranks second in league history.
--Field Level Media