WNBA’s Elena Delle Donne denied Covid-19 exemption

Phil Etchells on Elena Delle Donne's coronavirus exemption being denied

Philip Etchells
30th July 2020
The current MVP has been denied a medical exemption for the upcoming Women’s NBA season, an independent panel of doctors has ruled. The panel deemed that the Washington Mystics’ star is not at “high risk” of contracting Covid-19, despite suffering from chronic Lyme Disease.

In a recent open letter, published in the Players’ Tribune, Delle Donne revealed that she has to take 64 pills a day to manage the condition she has lived with since 2008. She applied to be exempt because of her concerns of contracting Covid-19.

However, the panel of doctors, appointed to assess high risk cases, have rejected her request to opt-out of the upcoming WNBA season. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not include Lyme disease in its list of underlying conditions that put someone at risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19. It is understood that the panel uses the CDC’s guidelines to evaluate high risk cases. Decisions made by the medical panel are final and cannot be appealed.

The basketballer is weighing up the huge financial implications of not taking part in this season. In the offseason, the two-time WNBA MVP signed a new four-year deal worth $899,480, which is almost double her salary for last season. However, in her open letter, the player explained how she “doesn’t have NBA player money”. Her male counterparts, with similar professional experience to Delle Donne, earn a minimum of $2 million per season, meaning the ramifications of her missing out on her salary are considerable.

If the panel had given Delle Donne an exemption, she would still receive her full salary without having to play. She explained: “I’m now left with two choices: I can either risk my life...or forfeit my paycheck”

The 2020 WNBA season is set to start at the end of the month and be played in a ‘bubble’ at the IMG Bradenton Academy, in Florida. The state is currently experiencing a surge in cases. As of July 24, over 400,000 people have tested positive with Covid-19 since March. The 30-year-old is yet to travel to Florida to join with the rest of the Mystics squad, as she is still recovering from back surgery she had in January to repair three herniated disks.

In her open letter, Delle Donne acknowledged that she is not the only person in a difficult position due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She added: "My heart has gone out to everyone who has had to choose between their health and having an income, and of course to anyone who has lost their job, their home, and anyone they love in this pandemic”. In addition, she highlighted the need to find a cure for Lyme disease, which would prevent fellow athletes being in a similar position in the future.

Her full statement can be read here.

Featured image: Lorie Shaull on Flickr
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