As the world battles a deadly virus we still know little about, Washington Mystics forward and reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne is still fighting her own battle with Lyme disease. Delle Donne discovered she had chronic Lyme disease during her first professional overseas season, and according to an article she penned for the Players Tribune on Wednesday, figured she was a shoo-in to be cleared by the NBA/WNBA panel of medical experts to sit out the season without forfeiting her salary.
Yet by now, we know she was not. Earlier this week, the panel gave Delle Donne one of two choices: Play the season with her immune system compromised by Lyme disease, or sit out and forfeit her $215,000 salary. As Delle Donne wrote, “I didn’t need a panel of league doctors to tell me that my immune system was high-risk — I’ve played my entire career with an immune system that’s high-risk!!!”
Delle Donne nevertheless remains at a crossroads that consistently faces public backlash for its trust and relationships with players. This is a league that just last season worked out an agreement with 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart to be a “league ambassador” while she recuperated from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, a job title that was opaque. It is a league also that faces similar medical clearance decisions for other major superstars such as Tina Charles and Liz Cambage.
Yet Delle Donne explains in the article that she already takes 64 pills per day just to keep the disease in control in her body and keep her internal chemical levels in a safe balance. Considering the conditions WNBA players are already asked to face in a normal season, coupled with the factors of the clean site in Bradenton, Fla., where this season is taking place, Delle Donne is understandably worried.
More from Delle Donne via the Players Tribune:
It hurts a lot. And maybe being hurt just makes me naive. And I know that, as athletes, we’re not really supposed to talk about our feelings. But feelings are pretty much all I have left right now. I don’t have NBA player money. I don’t have the desire to go to war with the league on this. And I can’t appeal.
So really all I’m left with is how much this hurts. How much it hurts that the W — a place that’s been my one big dream in life for as long as I can remember, and that I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to for seven going on eight seasons — has basically told me that I’m wrong about what’s happening in my own body. What I hear in their decision is that I’m a fool for believing my doctor. That I’m faking a disability. That I’m trying to “get out” of work and still collect a paycheck.
The Mystics are already in Bradenton, working their way through a shortened training camp before the WNBA tip-off on July 25.