The 2020 WNBA season has nearly arrived, with play set to begin next week at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Because of the lengthy delay necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, the regular season has been shortened to 22 games, and will run from July 25 through Sept. 12. Afterward, a normal postseason format will commence.
But although there will be basketball, it goes without saying that this won't be a normal season. Not only has the pandemic shortened the season and necessitated all 12 teams coming together in a bubble environment, but major names won't be taking part. Between health concerns and a desire to continue fighting for social justice during a time of unprecedented protests, a number of players have announced they won't be traveling to Florida.
Here's a look at some of the players who will be sitting out:
Jessica Breland -- F, Phoenix Mercury
The Mercury added Breland this offseason in a three-team trade with the Dream and Sun, but unfortunately they will have to wait until next summer to see her suit up in the orange and purple. A survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma, Breland has been medically excused from the bubble, and won't be playing this season.
"These last two weeks have been really hard for me," Breland said in a statement on the team's website. "As a cancer survivor you fear a relapse, but you never think about the long-term effects chemotherapy reeked on your body. The threat of COVID-19 has forced me to acknowledge a harsh reality -- although I am one of the top 144 WNBA players, my battle with cancer years ago left me vulnerable to coronavirus. With a heavy heart, I will be sitting out the upcoming WNBA season. I am blessed to have the Phoenix family behind me and their full support. I wish everyone the best in Florida, and I'll be thinking of you and cheering from afar!"
Liz Cambage -- C, Las Vegas Aces
The latest player to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season is another MVP candidate: Liz Cambage. The Aces star will remain in her native Australia instead of traveling to the United States for the season, which is set to begin later this month. While the Aces did not give a specific reason for Cambage's decision to sit out, their statement mentioned the impressive work she has done surrounding social justice in Australia.
"Liz is a generational talent, and we are going to miss her this year on the court and in the locker room," Aces GM Dan Padover said. "She has been incredibly active this offseason in the community raising money for first responders who battled the brush fires in Australia, shining a light on mental health awareness, and standing at the forefront of the peaceful protests in her country battling social and racial inequality, and I have no doubt that she will continue to do so."
"Although Liz won't be with us in Florida, she has our full support, and will continue to be a part of the Aces family and the city of Las Vegas for many years to come."
Tina Charles -- F/C, Washington Mystics
After six season with the Liberty, Tina Charles was traded to the Mystics in a blockbuster deal this offseason. Her debut with the club won't come until 2021, however, as she'll be sitting out the upcoming season after receiving a medical waiver. Charles' asthma makes her high-risk for developing complications from COVID-19.
"My condition, called extrinsic asthma, impacts my immune system and would make playing during a pandemic a very risky and dangerous proposition," Charles wrote in The Players' Tribune. "So recently the decision about whether to play or not was made for me when the league granted me a medical waiver for the upcoming season."
"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."
Natasha Cloud -- G, Washington Mystics
Cloud helped the Mystics win their first title in franchise history last season, but she won't be a part of the team's quest for a repeat. On Monday, June 22, Cloud announced on social media that she'll be sitting out the 2020 season in order to continue fighting for social justice.
"There's a lot of factors that led to this decision," Cloud said on Instagram. "But the biggest being that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can't matter."
Asia Durr -- G, New York Liberty
While a number of players have decided to sit out of the 2020 season due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus, New York Liberty guard Asia Durr is the first player to opt out due to having COVID-19. Durr made her announcement on Twitter, citing a difficult battle with the illness.
"After much thought and consultation with my doctors and the Liberty, I have decided not to play the 2020 WNBA season," Durr wrote. "After testing positive for COVID-10 on June 8, my battle with it has been complicated and arduous. As I continue to fight to fully recover, I had to make the difficult decision on a deadline to opt out as a medical High Risk player. So much about this virus is unknown and my heart is heavy, even as I make the decision that I know is best for my long term wellness.
"I want to thank my teammates, the Liberty organization, our fans and my partners for their compassion. I plan to stay connected to my team virtually and support them on the court and in their efforts around social justice and activism from the bubble however I can. I hope you will do the same."
Tiffany Hayes -- G, Atlanta Dream
Hayes is the second member of the Dream to decide not to play this summer, joining her backcourt partner Renee Montgomery. That duo's absence will leave plenty of opportunities for the Dream's new acquisitions, Courtney Williams and Chennedy Carter. Hayes didn't specifically cite a reason, but noted that with "everything that is going on right now" she decided it was best not to play.
"After much thought and consideration, I have decided to opt out of the 2020 season," Hayes wrote on Instagram. "This was not an easy decision but I believe it is in my best interest with everything that is going on right now. Although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment. Many will not agree with my decision but I know in my heart it's the right one."
Jonquel Jones -- F/C, Connecticut Sun
Jones finished in third place in the MVP voting last season, as she helped lead the Sun to the Finals for the first time since 2005. It's unlikely we'll see the Sun back in the Finals again this season, as Jones decided to opt out of going to Florida because of concerns about the coronavirus.
"After careful thought and consideration, I've decided to forego the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social and familial growth," Jones said on Instagram. "This was one of the toughest decisions I've made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in."
Renee Montgomery -- G, Atlanta Dream
The Dream struggled through one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but there is plenty of excitement about their team moving forward with the arrival of Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams in the offseason. That duo will have to step up in a major way, as veteran guard Renee Montgomery opted to focus on social justice instead of basketball.
"After much thought, I've decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season," Montgomery said. "There's work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. Social justice reform isn't going to happen overnight, but I do feel that now is the time and moments equal momentum. Let's keep it going!"
Chiney Ogwumike -- F/C, Los Angeles Sparks
The Ogwumike sisters were reunited last season, when the Sparks traded for Chiney from the Sun. However, we'll have to wait until 2021 to see the duo on the court together again, as Chiney has announced her intentions to sit out the upcoming season. She's missed two entire seasons with injuries so far in her career, and did not feel comfortable playing given the condensed scheduled and training camp.
"If you know me, you know that I have overcome some of the biggest challenges an athlete can face on the court," Ogwumike said. "My previous injuries have given me strength and built character, but unfortunately they require me to be careful with my preparation leading up to a season. This year is unprecedented in many ways, therefore my team and I have come to the decision to be proactively cautious and put my body first."
LaToya Sanders -- F/C, Washington Mystics
Though often overlooked on a star-studded team, Sanders was a crucial part of the Mystics' title run last season. But like Cloud, she won't be around as they try to repeat in 2020. Sanders, who is anemic, decided not to play due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
"This was not an easy choice to make, but after much thought and conversation I do believe it is what's best for my health and family," Sanders said in a statement. "I wish my teammates and the entire Mystics family the best this season and I will continue to watch and support them."
Kristi Toliver -- G, Los Angeles Sparks
After helping the Mystics win the title last season, Toliver against going for a repeat, chose instead to return to Los Angeles, signing a three-year deal with the Sparks in free agency. Her second stint with the team won't come until 2021, however, as she'll be sitting out due to concerns about the coronavirus.
"Though I want very much to compete with my team, to be a leader and show up for them, I am not comfortable with the risk to my physical health – short-term and long-term – given the many unknowns of COVID-19 and the risk of injury," Toliver said in a statement on the team's website. "For me, the right decision under the circumstances is to opt-out for the year."