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Delle Donne reveals fears about being forced to play; Mystics GM says she will be paid

In an emotional Players’ Tribune op-ed, Elena Delle Donne discusses how Lyme disease ravages her immune system and should prevent her from playing in a pandemic.

WNBA: Finals-Washington Mystics at Connecticut Sun
In order to play in normal times, Elena Delle Donne has to take 64 pills a day to control her Lyme disease.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: The coach and general manager of the Washington Mystics said Wednesday that even if Elena Delle Donne does not play for the WNBA this shortened season, she will be paid.

“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,” Mike Thibault said, according to USA Today. On Sunday, July 19, Thibault told reporters: “If I were in your shoes, I would go with the assumption that Elena’s not playing this year. That’s the assumption I have.”

ORIGINAL REPORT: When the WNBA announced that it was attempting to hold a 2020 regular season inside a metaphorical “bubble” during the coronavirus pandemic, two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne filed a request to opt out due to her chronic Lyme disease.

However, the panel of doctors appointed by the WNBA and players’ union surprisingly rejected it. In response, Delle Donne penned a searing essay at The Players’ Tribune, excruciatingly detailing her condition and explaining her fears about the prospect of being forced to play in Florida: America’s biggest COVID-19 hotspot.

Within the piece, Delle Donne provided several startling revelations about her day-to-day life with Lyme disease. Starting with the jaw-dropping fact that she has to take 64 pills a day in order to keep her condition under control.

She further explained that Lyme disease has been responsible for several frightening emergencies:

“I’ve had a common cold that sent my immune system spiraling into a serious relapse. I’ve relapsed off of a simple flu shot. There’s just been so many instances where I’ve contracted something that shouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but it blew my immune system out and turned into something scary.”

It should be no wonder that Delle Donne would have second thoughts about playing during a pandemic that has killed more than 138,000 Americans.

Mystics Ring Ceremony
Elena Delle Donne dons a mask with teammate Emma Meesseman to receive their WNBA Championship rings in a private June ceremony.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Delle Donne went on to detail the protocol she followed, getting reports from her personal physician and the Washington Mystics team doctor recommending a health exemption. So when word came back that her request was denied, she was floored.

Emphasizing that she hasn’t made a decision on playing in 2020 yet, Delle Donne revealed that she wrote the piece to raise awareness of what living with Lyme disease really means and and ensure she had space to explain her feelings:

“I’m now left with two choices: I can either risk my life.....or forfeit my paycheck.

“Honestly? That hurts.”

Read the entire article at The Players’ Tribune. It will give you an unsparing glimpse at the humanity of the players we’re asking to risk their health so we can be entertained.