Elena Delle Donne 'shocked' her WNBA season medical opt-out request was denied, Mystics say she'll be paid

Elena Delle Donne, WNBA champion and two-time MVP, tells Coy Wire that she is still in shock over the league's decision to deny her medical opt-out request.

Posted: Jul 16, 2020 5:31 PM
Updated: Jul 16, 2020 5:31 PM

Elena Delle Donne, the reigning WNBA MVP, wants to play basketball.

But the Washington Mystics star, who has battled Lyme disease for years, also wonders how her body would react if she contracted Covid-19 while playing.

On Monday, a panel of doctors denied Delle Donne's request to opt-out of the WNBA season for medical reasons, saying she is not at high risk of contracting Covid-19 and should be allowed to play.

However, Delle Donne, 30, said in a statement that her personal physician had told her that she's indeed at high risk.

The panel of doctors was approved by the league and the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA).

"I was shocked," Delle Donne, also a WNBPA vice president, told CNN on Wednesday. "And the process makes it hard because there's no ability to even appeal and I wasn't able to speak with the panel."

In an essay in The Players Tribune on Wednesday, Delle Donne revealed that she takes 64 pills a day, and she told CNN it takes a toll on her.

"It does, and it scares me," Delle Donne said. "I mean I know that's not safe. I know that being on antibiotics for a long period of time isn't healthy but I also know that when I don't take that medication I feel awful and I can't play basketball, I can't even get out of bed at times, so it's just kind of what I have to do to live the most normal life possible."

The WNBA, when reached by CNN on Monday, declined to comment on Delle Donne's opt-out request, citing privacy concerns on health matters.

WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson said in an email Wednesday to CNN, "It's inappropriate for the PA to comment on a player's medical status. EDD is a valued and trusted member of our player leadership. We support her 1000%."

Mystics: 'We have intended to (pay her) from the start'

Delle Donne is still weighing whether to play this season, which begins on July 25 and will be held at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. She told CNN that if she decides not to play, she would get "zero percent" of her salary and wouldn't be getting most of her endorsements.

"We don't make NBA money, and I think that's been well covered and people understand that," Delle Donne said. "You know, my bank account isn't as deep as if I was making NBA money, but I do know that our league is growing. With our latest CBA agreement, we made huge strides in getting players paid more. And we're continuing to grow our game and grow this league.

"I've invested so much in this league and I've seen it grow so much in my years of being here. So, for a moment like this, to kind of just feel like, blighted, has been tough, but this stuff happens, and I hope we can move forward and this can just be a learning experience."

However, Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said Wednesday to reporters -- following CNN's interview with Delle Donne -- that Delle Donne is still getting paid as a member of the team.

Delle Donne, who helped the Mystics win their first title despite playing through the WNBA Finals with three herniated discs, had back surgery in January and is continuing rehabilitation. According to Thibault, she is not yet physically ready to play.

"She is part of our roster, she is being paid, and is continuing to rehab from her offseason back surgery," Thibault said. "If at some point in the season we are all comfortable -- and I mean all -- with her physical progress and the safety of joining the team in Florida then we will make those arrangements. If we don't feel that, then she will continue to do her workouts in DC and get herself ready for the following season."

On Wednesday, Thibault was asked if Delle Donne, who has a guaranteed contract, would be paid if her back feels better and she doesn't feel comfortable playing because of Covid-19 concerns.

"We can do whatever we want as far as that's concerned," Thibault said. "We have intended to do that (pay her) from the start. She's a major part of our team and she's making every effort to do the rehab that she needs to do. I don't want to speculate what that's going to look like in four to six weeks. I don't think that's fair to us or her at this point until see where she is."

Delle Donne told CNN she wants to make her decision as soon as possible, saying, "I don't want this to drag on. I don't want my teammates in the bubble having to deal with this."

However, she expressed that she is fortunate to be in a position to make a choice.

"I know there's so many people through Covid who have lost their jobs, who haven't been able to decide whether to take care of themselves health-wise or go to work because they just don't have the option," Delle Donne said. "So, I know I'm in a situation where I am super blessed and I'm just going to have to figure this out and decide what's going to be the best route."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 291222

Reported Deaths: 6577
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19470226
Hinds18555383
Harrison16385273
Rankin12498260
Jackson12401216
Lee9635160
Madison9353193
Jones7836144
Forrest7055135
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Tate299172
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Scott291367
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Holmes181470
Clay177348
Stone170729
Tallahatchie169039
Clarke167671
Calhoun155327
Smith151131
Yalobusha141936
Greene126333
Walthall123040
Noxubee122429
Montgomery120537
Perry120133
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Carroll117123
Amite110632
Webster108629
Jefferson Davis99831
Tunica97923
Claiborne97329
Benton92524
Humphreys91226
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Quitman76614
Franklin75319
Choctaw69316
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson60827
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 488973

Reported Deaths: 9660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson703321342
Mobile35725716
Madison32088437
Tuscaloosa23913404
Montgomery22369481
Shelby21714209
Baldwin19554263
Lee14827147
Morgan13529243
Etowah13091309
Calhoun13063281
Marshall11197202
Houston10019255
Limestone9303130
Elmore9283179
Cullman8856176
St. Clair8747214
Lauderdale8541209
DeKalb8419173
Talladega7424161
Walker6466240
Jackson6450101
Autauga614384
Blount6058125
Colbert5973118
Coffee522299
Dale4606106
Russell400530
Franklin396575
Covington3918105
Chilton380096
Escambia375970
Tallapoosa3533138
Clarke342348
Dallas3385139
Chambers3382102
Pike292471
Lawrence280685
Marion277492
Winston244563
Marengo243454
Bibb243259
Geneva238168
Pickens223453
Barbour208450
Hale208064
Fayette198755
Butler194865
Henry181741
Cherokee175737
Monroe165538
Randolph161240
Washington155832
Crenshaw143052
Clay142554
Macon140344
Cleburne136139
Lamar130632
Lowndes130148
Wilcox120525
Bullock116033
Conecuh106423
Perry104927
Sumter98231
Greene86732
Coosa86323
Choctaw54723
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