How do you introduce someone like Elena Delle Donne? Two-time WNBA MVP, 2019 WNBA Champion, six-time WNBA All-Star, 2013 Rookie of the Year, Olympic Gold Medalist, and all around awesome sports lesbian Elena Delle Donne. How about that? It almost makes her sound superhuman. And watching her 6’5” frame dominate on the court, anyone would be inclined to think she really is. But on July 15th, Delle Donne shared a personal letter about her health that shocked everyone.
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. So I wrote this. https://t.co/R9ABh9v73n
— Elena Delle Donne (@De11eDonne) July 15, 2020
“I take 64 pills a day.”
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 15, 2020
If your mind can’t possibly grasp the amount of pills that is, the WNBA star helpfully shared a picture of all the medication she must take daily. Anyone who has ever had to take multiple medications a day knows how exhausting it can be. It’s the anxiety of wondering did I forget to take something today? What if I accidentally took a double dose? What if I ate the wrong thing by accident? Don’t even get me started on side effects. It feels like a demon’s compromise: I will have this kind of pain just to stop this other kind of pain. And some days you wonder if it’s actually worth it. And in a heartbreaking admittance, Delle Donne says, “I feel like it’s slowly killing me.”
But why would anyone, let alone a world-class athlete need to take that many pills? Delle Donne took a huge step and told the world that she has Lyme disease. “It’s the only way to keep myself healthy enough to play the game that I love – healthy enough to do my job and earn the paycheck that supports my family.” You might be thinking, it should be fine for her to opt out of the WNBA’s upcoming shortened season, right? You’d have common sense to think so because Lyme disease causes a compromised immune system. In another shocking revelation, Delle Donne reveals that her appeal to opt out of the season was denied despite WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert saying just last month how much they, “believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA.” Her choices are either put her life in danger for a paycheck or stay safe and risk being unable to support her family. And you must remember, WNBA players are paid significantly less than NBA players, despite being owned by the same governing body that owns the NBA.
Elena Delle Donne wrote an open letter about her battle with Lyme disease after her request to opt out of the 2020 season because of medical concerns was denied by the WNBA.
(via The Players' Tribune) pic.twitter.com/CQXsZKmnf6
— ESPN (@espn) July 15, 2020
It’s never really a choice when the only other option puts your life at risk. And while NBA, and even NWSL players had no trouble declining to play, that doesn’t seem to be the case in the WNBA. And how often has this scene repeated itself throughout history? A woman’s health and medical concerns are dismissed. She’s made to feel as though she was faking it all along. Every woman, from every country, from every culture can relate to this. But no matter how often it happens, it’s still infuriating every time. And what Delle Donne’s letter has done is remind us of the myriad of other women who are having to put their lives at risk during a pandemic. The cleaners, the grocery store workers, even the street vendors. Her letter has reminded us of the women who keep society running, but are never given a voice. She even shows her solidarity with these women in her letter.
“Delle Donne reveals that her appeal to opt out of the season was denied despite WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert saying just last month how much they, “believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA.”
But she also apologizes for not speaking about her condition earlier so she might use her platform to speak about the issue. There is no need to apologize. The WNBA should apologize to her for insinuating that she might be faking it, for causing even more unnecessary trauma, and for not allowing her to opt out. Living with an illness, disorder, or disability is hard enough, let alone living with one during a global pandemic. I understand the exhaustion, the anxiety, the frustration, and sadness. That she managed to write this letter at all and be as open, honest, and vulnerable as she was takes a type of bravery few possess. And for that we thank her. While her letter stated she had not yet made her decision about whether she plays or not, we will support whatever she decides to do. There’s an entire army of lesbians who have her back.