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What can Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics do now that her medical exemption is denied?

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The 2019 WNBA Most Valuable Player has a tough choice to make on whether to play this season. We go over them below.

2019 WNBA Finals - Game One
Elena Delle Donne has a dilemma now that her request for a medical exemption was denied.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Today, I was going to publish a piece about the five Washington Mystics games you must see this season. However, I wrote that with a major assumption: that Elena Delle Donne wasn’t going to play this season.

That piece will be delayed a day because of the news around Delle Donne, that her request for a medical exemption was denied.

What are the things we know about the decision to deny Delle Donne’s request?

One common thing I saw coming out of this news last night was the “blame the WNBA” card. The medical panel that denied Delle Donne’s request was NOT solely made up of league-appointed doctors. This panel was a jointly created panel between the league and players’ union, according to John Barr and Sarah Spain of ESPN, who broke the news last night.

We don’t know how what the nitty-gritty details are between the specific doctors on this panel, but enough of them apparently don’t think Delle Donne is at higher risk of complications from the coronavirus should she get it. But we do know that Delle Donne’s personal physician believes so.

Also from Barr’s and Spain’s report, they spoke to Erin Kane, Delle Donne’s agent. Kane mentioned that the Mystics’ physician, Dr. Anne Rettig, noted that Delle Donne should be considered a “higher risk” even though she was cleared to play, so the team certainly seems to agree with Delle Donne’s physician. And finally, the CDC doesn’t officially consider Lyme Disease a condition that can increase risk of complications from the coronavirus.

Ultimately, this decision is final and Delle Donne can’t appeal it.

In the end, there are more layers behind the decision to deny Delle Donne’s request for a medical waiver than the league simply telling her to go suit up.

And now there are two choices: Delle Donne can choose to play this season or not. So here are the pros and cons of each decision.

What if EDD reports to play this season after all?

Since the panel determined that Delle Donne is ineligible for a waiver, she could decide to report to Florida. She will get paid the $215,000 supermax salary this season and boost the team’s championship hopes on the court. From there, she would presumably play alongside returning members of the 2019 championship team like Emma Meesseman, Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers.

Even if Delle Donne reports to play this season, that doesn’t mean that she has to play 30 or more minutes a game like she did in 2019. This team is very good at adaptability, so I’ll leave it at that.

The downside to Delle Donne returning for the Mystics besides a physical injury is the worst case scenario: Seeing her contract COVID-19 while playing this season and getting complications. That would be an utter disaster for the WNBA if this happened.

What if EDD doesn’t play?

Delle Donne can still opt out like Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders did. The upside here is that Delle Donne won’t be subject to the risk of contracting coronavirus from the WNBA’s current bubble environment, where social distancing just won’t happen on the court. However, she will NOT get paid $215,000 by the WNBA to do so.

That said, Cloud is getting paid the equivalent of her WNBA salary by Converse, the Nike subsidiary with whom she has a shoe contract. Like Cloud, Delle Donne will have to determine if she can find other financial arrangements to make up the $215,000 she would have otherwise made by playing.


I, like most Mystics fans, am disappointed by the medical panel’s decision and wish that Delle Donne was granted the medical exemption.

And it remains to be seen whether Tina Charles will get hers.

How do you feel about this decision? Sound off in the comments below.