Don’t Force Medically Vulnerable WNBA Player to Work During Deadly Pandemic

Target: Cathy Engelbert, Commissioner of the Women’s National Basketball League

Goal: Do not stop payment of players who take medical leave in response to COVID-19.

Elena Delle Donne, a prominent player in the Women’s National Basketball League, is being forced to make a difficult decision: her health or her livelihood. Delle Donne suffers from Lyme disease and is immunocompromised. The WNBA plans to continue functioning despite the coronavirus. Delle Donne has been told that there will be no exception made for her to take a leave of absence because of her high risk health status.

Delle Donne put in a formal request for a medical exemption for the 2020 season, but it was denied by league physicians. Delle Donne said, “The league I’ve given my blood, sweat, and tears to has basically told me that my doctors are wrong and I’m wrong for believing them.” Delle Donne went on to pen an open letter about her health and her struggles with Lyme disease. She speaks about taking 64 pills a day in order to keep symptoms of her condition at bay. In the letter, she also speaks about all of the difficulties she goes through in order to play basketball at an elite level in order to highlight the fact that she does everything possible to train and to play and that she would not be making up a condition or attempting to not participate in this season unless she thought it was a serious risk to her health.

Sign this petition to urge the WNBA to reevaluate Delle Donne’s request for medical exemption and to continue to pay players who need to take medical leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Dear Commissioner Engelbert,

Basketball is a contact sport and it is impossible to remain socially distanced while playing or training. Elena Delle Donne has pre-existing medical conditions that put her in a high risk category should she become exposed to and infected by COVID-19. As a professional athlete, it should be clear that her ability to play is the most important thing to her and that in any situation where she could play safely, she would do so. In fact, Delle Donne is known to have played with herniated discs in her back because the game was more important to her than her personal comfort.

In this situation with the coronavirus pandemic, people are making choices that literally could mean the difference between life and death. No one should be made to decide between their health and their livelihood, especially if their livelihood is not an essential position. I urge you to re-evaluate the medical exemption request that Delle Donne submitted and to commit to paying players who need to take medical leaves in response to COVID-19


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Elena Delle Donne


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