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Paying Elena Delle Donne is a Nice Gesture, But Washington Mystics Miss the Point

Elena Delle Donne will get paid by the Washington Mystics, but the WNBA still has a problem.
Elena Delle Donne will get paid by the Washington Mystics, but the WNBA still has a problem.
Image: Getty

As the Elena Delle Donne fiasco continues, the Washington Mystics last night came in to save the day, at least so they thought. They announced that they had planned to pay Della Donne whether she played this season or not, as she’s coming off back surgery and is rehabbing at the moment. Which at first, might seem to tidy this up in a neat little bow.

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Except if any more thought is given to it, it most certainly doesn’t. First off, the dispute here isn’t really about the money. It would be more about the money for other players, but not Delle Donne. She makes the league’s maximum salary, she has a pretty healthy endorsement portfolio. Financially, Delle Donne isn’t going to struggle with missed paychecks for a season. She’s basically said as much.

The beef is with the WNBA being so callous with one of its premier player’s health concerns. It wasn’t denying her the money, it was forcing her to choose between that and playing in an atmosphere she does not feel is safe for her. And she would hardly be the only one who does not feel it is safe. By having one of your most recognized players rejected from opting out, you can bet there are others lower on the food chain who aren’t even going to try. You’d have to be one cynical fucker to think that was part of the WNBA’s calculation, but I just happen to be that cynical fucker.

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Secondly, the Mystics are essentially saying they will pay an injured player while she rehabs from an injury she got while, y’know, playing for them. This is standard stuff. This would have happened under normal circumstances. You don’t get plaudits for paying a player their contract while they rehab an injury. What wouldn’t have happened under normal circumstances is Delle Donne being forced into a bubble she feels puts her safety at risk. In a normal WNBA season, if Delle Donne’s condition or symptoms caused her to miss time, she wouldn’t be getting docked her pay. She’d just be on an “unavailable” list while she recovers.

The Mystics, and likely the WNBA, are hoping that Delle Donne getting her money solves the issue and everyone will move on. In an interview with CNN, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert declined to say whether or not the decision not to grant an exemption to Delle Donne was the right one, choosing instead only to talk about the independent medical panel and a “level playing field for all players.”

But the money doesn’t solve the issue that the league is asking any player to camp out in Florida for weeks, that it simply ignored a player’s case of feeling unsafe and protecting herself, or that it didn’t have to really show its work as to why. After all, Delle Donne waived her right to appeal, which doesn’t make any of this smell any better.

Have you ever looked at a dollar bill, man?

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