Skip to main content

WNBA CHAMPION AND MVP'S DISPUTE Is a cautionary tale for the NBA

Elena-Delle-Done

Imagine Giannis has a condition that compromises his immune system, and his personal doctor writes a letter to the NBA informing them his patient is a high-risk person concerning COVID-19 and is excused from participating in the Orlando bubble. Now imagine the NBA’s panel of doctors refuses that opinion and inform Giannis they deem him fit to play.

That’s what’s going on in the WNBA right now. Elena Della Donne is the reigning WNBA champion and MVP, and she has to choose between her health and yearly income. EDD suffers from chronic Lyme, a disease she’s lived with for nine years. We don’t have to get into medical details; this will explain everything. 

“Taking 64 pills a day is the only way to keep my condition under any sort of control. It’s the only way to keep myself healthy enough to play the game that I love — healthy enough to do my job and earn the paycheck that supports my family.”

Elena Delle Donne, The Players' Tribune

The consequences of contracting Lyme disease for Della Donne are severe. She’s had serious complications from the common cold and flu shots. Yet, the WNBA medical board determined she is fit to play this season. They did so without talking to her or her doctor. To add insult to injury, Della Donne has no possibility of appeal or second hearing. Under the current system, she has no way to make her case. 

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

Honestly? That hurts.”

Elena Delle Donne, The Players' Tribune

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

After her Player's Tribune piece came out, the Mystics (her team) coach and general manager Mike Thibault said that Delle Donne is on the team's roster and is being paid. He said she will be paid throughout the WNBA season, even if she is doing rehab for the back surgery she underwent in January and doesn't play. Delle Donne, by the way, had back surgery after playing in the Finals with three herniated disks. That's badass.

Delle Donne said she is thankful to her team for all the support, but still had some reservations about the rules going forward. Can she rehab at home, and will she be expected to join the team in Orlando once her rehab is done? There seems to be open constructive dialogue between Delle Donne and the team, so it will probably work out. What can NBA players and fans learn from this?

Just to remind you, NBA players and coaches also had to be approved by a medical board before going into the bubble. The concern there was the opposite - that primarily coaches over 65 will want to participate even if it’s not safe for them. That board still has the power to remove anyone from the bubble if the situation changes. 

The other important aspect for NBA fans in this whole story is something Delle Donne mentioned in her Player’s Tribune story. Florida isn’t doing all that great with COVID-19. If a player has a severe reaction and they have to be taken to a hospital, what then? The NBA did set up a clinic within the bubble. Presumably, WNBA will be able to use it too. 

But there’s only so much you can do in an improvised clinic. If someone has complications due to a preexisting condition, like let’s say chronic Lyme disease, they would need more serious medical attention. That’s a risk a lot of NBA players still face while in the bubble. James Harden, for instance, has asthma. Many players have conditions we don’t know about and hopefully won’t find out about. 

As for Elena Della Donne, she will make her decision in the next few days - a decision she shouldn’t have to make. 

Damian Lillard reaveals one guy he'd like to team up with

Damian Lillard opens up about the player he dreams to team up with

Maybe there's a universe where Dame Lillard finally realizes that the Blazers won't go anywhere given their mediocrity over the last decade

Chris Paul after a Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks

Phoenix Suns collapse in embarrassing 33-point blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks

The Suns, who were the best team regular season team in the NBA (standing-wise), showed no fight, no heart, and no execution in Game 7

NBA reacts to a Mavs blowout win against the Suns

NBA Community reacts to the Dallas Mavericks blowout win against the Phoenix Suns

The NBA community was astonished by the Mavs blowout win against the Suns behind another great performance from Luka Doncic

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jayson Tatum

“The energy is about to shift” — Jaylen Brown’s quote was the Boston Celtics’ battle cry for Game 7

Jaylen Brown tweeted "The energy is about to shift” in January and it kickstarted the turnaround for the Boston Celtics.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and wife Ayesha Curry

Sex, phone, coffee, or weed? Steph Curry tells Ayesha Curry what he couldn't live without for a month

Steph was quick to answer, and according to Ayesha's reaction, he gave the right answer.

Allen Iverson created his own path to the NBA that many players after him have looked to follow

Allen Iverson on creating his own path to the NBA that many players after him have looked to follow

Both on and off the court, Iverson stood out among the rest of his peers and helped revolutionize the NBA

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons

Brooklyn Nets reveal "summer plan" to fix setbacks with Ben Simmons which includes mental health

The Nets reportedly have come up with a promising plan to help Simmons. We'll believe it when we see it.