SNIDER: Mystics star's withdrawal could resonate across sports

Rick Snider
July 14, 2020 - 12:51 pm
WNBA denies Elena Delle Donne's medical opt-out request

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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Could a WNBA star refusing to play take down the rest of sports?
 
Washington Mystics' Elena Delle Donne doesn't want to play this season for health concerns. The reigning MVP's physician fears her past Lyme disease experience could make contracting COVID-19 especially dangerous for her, according to ESPN.

Delle Donne should opt out if she thinks that's best for herself. Nobody has the right to say otherwise, nor penalize her for doing so. Otherwise, get ready for sports to go away until 2021.
 
But, a WNBA medical review board rejected Delle Donne's plea to be designated high risk and miss the coming season without penalty. Delle Donne could face financial sanctions for not reporting. Luckily, she plays for an organization with a heart. I can't imagine Mystics owner Ted Leonsis forcing her to play or imposing penalties given the health risk. This isn't someone holding out over money, but fearing a pandemic that has claimed more than 130,000 lives in the U.S. since March.
 
Delle Donne hasn't decided whether to report, but her case will be closely watched by athletes in other sports. The NFL is nearing training camp while Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL are underway training in isolation that is still seeing positive COVID-19 tests.
 
If Delle Donne were forced to play, what would the Redskins say if Chase Young didn't report by claiming a medical reason? Or the Nationals losing Max Scherzer despite a league medical board saying he's fine?
 
Sports owners are trying to survive even without fans attending games. TV pays for everything, so owners are seeking the healthiest environments they can. But, players are not cattle. They have a right to worry about their health as well as their families as this virus spreads easily. Sports owners have a history of not caring about player health. The NFL ignored concussions until they couldn't, so it's hard to completely trust them.
 
But it's a new "woke" moment for America, from nicknames to health care, so Delle Donne's case resonates across sports. Players already fear resuming is unsafe and a number of them – like Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman – have already opted out.
 
Everyone has to feel free to leave even when camp starts or player unions will quickly shut things down. This could all fall apart quickly or become some skeletal situation that turns into a joke of only reserves still on the field, like scab teams during the 1987 NFL strike.
 
The days of telling players to shut up and play ball are gone. Delle Donne should opt out if she thinks that's best for herself. Nobody has the right to say otherwise, nor penalize her for doing so. Otherwise, get ready for sports to go away until 2021.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks

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