Washington Mystics stars Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles have entered WNBA medical evaluation protocol and did not travel with the team to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida for the beginning of the 2020 season, the team announced. Delle Donne is currently suffering from Lyme disease, while the reason for Charles' inclusion is not yet known. If a player is medically excused by the WNBA's panel of physicians, they will still be paid their full salary this season. If a player chooses to opt-out of playing this season without being medically excused, they forfeit their salary.
Delle Donne released the following statement on Twitter in light of Wednesday's news. "Many of you know about my ongoing battle with Lyme Disease, and a compromised immune system. For now I'm following protocol and waiting for a risk assessment from the league medical panel. Missing my teammates but health and safety are the priority."
The WNBA's current plan is to play a shortened 22-game regular season in a bubble constructed at IMG Academy similar to the NBA's setup at Disney. It would then move into a normal postseason structure from there, playing concurrently with the NBA for the first time in its history.
However, the rising number of positive coronavirus tests in Florida threaten the plan, and a number of top WNBA players have already opted out of playing this season. Among them are two Mystic players, LaToya Sanders and Natasha Cloud. While coronavirus is a concern for players in every sport, many WNBA players have vowed to spend the time they would have spent playing focusing on social justice causes. That includes Cloud, who announced her decision on Instagram last month.
The Mystics are the defending WNBA champions, but given the number of players that will not suit up this season, their title is up for grabs. If they are forced to play without Delle Donne and Charles, their odds of repeating fall significantly.