• Sophia Hosford

WNBA lacks consistency in medical exemption decisions

Updated: Aug 3

Tina Charles, a seasoned veteran and one of two Mystics players requesting medical exemption from the 2020 WNBA season, was granted the ability to opt out due to her extrinsic asthma. The other player to request exemption, reigning MVP, Elena Delle Donne was denied exemption despite her Lyme disease.

Delle Donne was tasked with the decision of whether to risk her health and play, or to opt out and lose her salary. The Mystics recently revealed that she will be paid, contrary to prior statements from the WNBA claiming otherwise.

Charles and Delle Donne released statements, the following are excerpts of their essays. The full essays can be accessed at the links below.


Charles: “I was leaning toward playing, but with COVID-19 still taking hundreds of lives each day and the movement for racial justice in this country gaining real momentum, something about playing basketball at a time like this just felt, I don’t know, off. While I was going back and forth on it, I received a medical questionnaire from the league. In filling it out, I couldn’t help but notice that I was answering questions about potential susceptibility to health issues with more yes’s than no’s due to an existing medical condition. Our team physician noticed, too. And she flagged me as potentially high risk....It’s going to be an adjustment, not playing this year. For the last 10 years, I’ve never not gone into a season. But sitting out the season is what I’m prepared to do. It’s not what I was anticipating for 2020, and as someone who has invested so much into this game, it’s tough. I still have a lot to accomplish both on and off the court but sitting out this season to make sure that I stay healthy is what I’m going to do".


Delle Donne: “A few days later, the league’s panel of doctors — without ever once speaking to me or to either of my doctors — informed me that they were denying my request for a health exemption. I’m now left with two choices: I can either risk my life….. or forfeit my paycheck. Honestly? That hurts. 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”.


Both players faced the WNBA medical panel, Charles has chosen to opt out, however, Delle Donne has neither confirmed nor denied her status though it seems highly unlikely that she will be suiting up this season. Though the league did right by center, Charles, forward, Delle Donne, was completely betrayed by the WNBA. The WNBA has to do better to ensure its players are safe and healthy and that the league themselves are consistent in their decision-making, especially given the circumstances in which their athletes will be playing this season.

Charles’ full statement: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/tina-charles-wnbal

Delle Donne’s full statement: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/elena-delle-donne-wnba-season-lyme-disease


Photo: FOX Sports 1340 Photo: Swish Appeal


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