Mystics

Elena Delle Donne put in tough spot by WNBA, reveals health struggles with Lyme disease in open letter

Elena Delle Donne put in tough spot by WNBA, reveals health struggles with Lyme disease in open letter

For anyone that has covered Elena Delle Donne in her professional career, there is one thing that you know: the two-time WNBA MVP battles Lyme disease which directly affects her ordinary way of life. 

She's been open about it and does not shy away from questions regarding her symptoms. Her openness and status in the league were so prominent that when the WNBA said it would allow players with preexisting conditions - and potential vulnerabilities to the coronavirus - to sit out and receive pay, it was assumed she fit. 

But yet the WNBA denied her request, leaving her in "disbelief" and her best response coming in a tell-all Player's Tribune article

I take 64 pills a day, and I feel like it’s slowly killing me. Or if it’s not killing me, directly, then I at least know one thing for sure: It’s really bad for me. Longterm, taking that much medicine on that regular of a regimen is just straight-up bad for you. It’s literally an elaborate trick that you play on yourself — a lie that you tell your body so it keeps thinking everything is fine. 

It’s a never-ending, exhausting, miserable cycle.

But I do it anyway.

Much of what she says is nothing new. By battling “Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome," more commonly known as Chronic Lyme Disease, her life has been uprooted. Delle Donne has to take 64 supplements a day. She is immunocompromised where a common cold sends her immune system into a frenzy and a flu shot does more harm than good.

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She's been battling it since 2008 and now her league, that she represents on the highest stage, turned its back on her. She is more at risk of developing serious complications due to the coronavirus because of her compromised immune system. Her own doctor said that it's not safe for her to risk traveling to a state where cases are skyrocketing all to play basketball. 

Lyme disease is not one without controversy. For most affected, treatment is easy and simple (about a month of antibiotics and you're back to normal). However, symptoms get more serious the longer it is not treated and for Delle Donne it took multiple doctors to figure out what was going on. 

Many brush off the disease, mostly because there is so much even the medical community does not know. 

Yet, the league isn't giving her a fair option.

Instead of giving her a choice to remain safe, at home, the WNBA's panel of doctors said that she is not high-risk for the virus. 

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.

So really all I’m left with is how much this hurts. How much it hurts that the W — a place that’s been my one big dream in life for as long as I can remember, and that I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to for seven going on eight seasons — has basically told me that I’m wrong about what’s happening in my own body. What I hear in their decision is that I’m a fool for believing my doctor. That I’m faking a disability. That I’m trying to “get out” of work and still collect a paycheck.

Her disease and symptoms didn't come out of nowhere. And of all people in the league to be 'faking' a disease, it's not her. She played the WNBA Finals last season with three herniated discs, a face mask and a knee brace from injuries she suffered on the court. 

Her decision to play is still forthcoming - a decision that she should never have to make. Delle Donne admits that her choice is no different than what many Americans have had to weigh during the pandemic and many are in worse financial shape than she is. But if this situation taught her anything, it's to admit when someone doesn't know something.

"Probably the best lesson I’ve learned through my experience with Lyme disease — is this: There’s so much in the world that we don’t know," Delle Donne said.

And right now there is so much the WNBA doesn't know about Lyme disease. 

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Mystics leave Sky loss frustrated, looking for answers and hoping Emma Meesseman starts shooting

Mystics leave Sky loss frustrated, looking for answers and hoping Emma Meesseman starts shooting

One possession perfectly summed up how the Mystics day went in their first loss of the season. It just so happened to be the final possession with the opportunity to tie or win it all against the Chicago Sky. 

An inbounds play in the frontcourt had little separation from the players on the floor. Just before a five-second call, Ariel Atkins forced the ball to Emma Meesseman at the mid-wing. Failing to get space on a turnaround drive to the rim - and no one moving to an open lane - Meesseman attempted to toss the ball to Leilani Mitchell in the corner. Chicago was there to deflect the pass and hold on for the 88-86 win.

No separation, Meesseman not able to get a shot, and not much movement on the offensive end are all how not to describe the Mystics offense. 

"Tonight, honestly, we beat ourselves. I don't think Chicago beat us," Aerial Powers told reporters postgame as the Sky could be heard celebrating in the background. "We didn't start off with the energy we usually do and we weren't there for 40 minutes and that's on us."

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The game started out slow in a contest that was billed to be a high-scoring affair between two of the most potent offenses. Washington only mustered 37 points in the first half, Chicago not any better with 35.

Tiredness was a factor (the team's fourth game in eight days), size on the opposing end definitely had an impact, but ultimately it wasn't what Mike Thibault and his staff has come to expect from this group. There were several broken plays, bad, unforced turnovers and not enough offense to bail them out of some shortcomings. 

"We just didn't play Mystics basketball today for the whole game," Myisha Hines-Allen said postgame. "I think that's what it boils down to."

There was little support from the bench (eight total points) and with their worst shooting performance on the season (41.9% from the floor and 36.4% from deep), Chicago matched them nearly the whole contest. 

But a big problem that was amplified during this game was the lack of offensive scoring from Meesseman. She had the ball in her hand on the final possession and was unable to create a shot on a one-on-one matchup. Thibault wanted her to become more a facilitator this season, but she has yet to have the impact that became the standard in last year's WNBA Finals. 

Her nine points were a season-low. 

"We're wishing she would shoot a little bit more," Thibault said simply in his postgame availability.

On Saturday she missed some shots early which seemed to alter her confidence. There also didn't seem to be the same burst and separation ability to help her get open.

Through the first three games, Washington was okay letting her be a backseat driver. The games weren't close and several of her teammates had the hot hand. It was different against Chicago and her lack of scoring was evident. 

At the same time, it's not all on Meesseman. The team had 14 combined turnovers and ran into five blocked shots.

Even the great 2019 Washington Mystics got tripped up once in a while. It only too four games into the 2020 season, after boasting their dominant offensive prowess in every game prior, to get tripped up this time. 

Now, they get a rare three-day break and Thibault is going to make sure he hits some golf balls.

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Mystics' Essence Carson calls on the WNBA bubble to stand in solidarity, continuing to 'Say Her Name'

Mystics' Essence Carson calls on the WNBA bubble to stand in solidarity, continuing to 'Say Her Name'

This entire WNBA season is dedicated to Breonna Taylor. Her name is on every players' jersey, she is constantly brought up in media sessions by players. Before the first game of the season on national television, the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm held a moment of silence for her. 

Washington Mystics newcomer Essence Carson doesn't want that movement to be slowed down. On Friday she called on her WNBA cohorts to continue to 'Say Her Name' in a video posted on Uninterrupted. 

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency room technician, was killed when police shot into her house while executing a wrongful search warrant back in March. The officers involved in the shooting have not been charged with any wrongdoing in the months since. 

Taylor's death has sparked additional social unrest in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. The 'Say Her Name' campaign began to raise awareness of her death as it was overshadowed by Floyd's.

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Carson says this is the opportunity for her fellow players to stand on the right side of history and make a difference. 

"For many years of our lives, we used the game that we loved to serve as entertainment," Carson said in the video. "Today it's time that we used the game that we love to serve a purpose much greater. A purpose much greater than many may believe we deserve to stand for."

Those who oppose the WNBA players speaking out or say that athletes should 'shut up and dribble' aren't the first intended to silence Black and female voices. Carson recalls the time when Black individuals "didn't deserve" the right to vote, share the same space as whites and some didn't believe Blacks were human.

"So I ask that you take this opportunity alongside myself and my sisters to stand in solidarity, say her name, and to speak your truth unapologetically," Carson said. "And I've never just been an athlete. I'm human first."

This is an additional step to address social injustice and reform in what has been a packed WNBA season. Since the league started the season a week ago, the moment of silence, the Mystics call for people to register to vote and teams not participating in the national anthem have all served as statements for how players will be active in the bubble. 

It's not just a moment, it is a movement and these players are ensuring they are a part of the conversation. 

"There's always things brewing," Carson told the media this week. "I think individually players are going to continue to use their platform, especially via social media, where they can really get, you know, really, really use that vast audience."

"We have to attack these issues from all angles, right. There are so many issues. So, we're going to have to have many solutions and there isn't one solution that's going to fix everything. Again, like I like to tell everybody, it took a long time for us to get to where we are, as far as where social injustice is."

Some players elected not to play this season for social justice. Most notably was Natasha Cloud from Washington who has consistently been vocal on issues within society. That was not the case for Carson who chose to play in the WNBA bubble as an opportunity to get creative on how to enact social change

The guard/forward is perhaps best known for how she handled herself as a leader of the Rutgers women's basketball team during the Don Imus controversy. She'll continue to step up for social justice and is simply asking for her colleagues to continue to fight the fight.

"It was going to take many people to get together and act as one and continuously and consistently and persistently attack this from all angles. So, you know, one day, like I said, one day it'll be voter initiative and other you know one thing that we won't stop championing is is say her name. And it just begins there, doesn't stop there"

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