Due to health concerns relating to COVID-19, former North Carolina women's basketball player Jessica Breland is opting out of the 2020 WNBA season.
Breland received medical exemption from the league on Sunday due to a history with cancer, which has been linked to higher chances of experiencing symptoms from COVID-19.
During her tenure at UNC, Breland was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. This caused her to sit out during the 2009-10 season before returning the next season. After the 2010-11 season, Breland was drafted 13th overall to the Minnesota Lynx before ultimately starting her career with the New York Liberty.
Breland, now with the Phoenix Mercury, released a statement about her decision to sit out for the 2020 season, which is scheduled to begin July 25.
“These last two weeks have been really hard for me,” Breland wrote in her statement. “As a cancer survivor you fear relapse, but you never think about the long term effects chemotherapy reeked on your body. The threat of COVID has forced me to acknowledge a harsh reality. ... My battle with cancer years ago left me vulnerable to COVID.”
Breland has played 243 games in her career, with one of her professional highlights coming by way of an All-Star selection during the 2014 season. Breland was also named to the WNBA All-Defensive 1st team in 2018. 2020 was set to be her first season with the Mercury and her 9th in the league, as she missed the 2012 season.
Like the NBA, the WNBA will host its season in Florida, though in the city of Bradenton instead of the Orlando bubble where the NBA is hosting players from 22 invited teams.
The games will be played at the IMG Academy, using a bubble format similar to the NBA, with no fans in games and protocols for the players to follow while living in the space. The WNBA announced on July 6 that seven of the 137 tests for COVID-19 throughout the league came back positive. Players who test positive are instructed to self-isolate until given clearance to participate, similar to the NBA's guidelines.
Breland was not the only prominent WNBA player to make news about the league's new format.
Washington Mystics forward and WNBA champion Elena Delle Donne was recently denied a medical leave of absence by the league’s panel of doctors despite having chronic Lyme disease. She said in an article for The Players’ Tribune that she takes 64 pills a day for the disease, which she has had for over a decade. Despite the denied request, the Mystics stated that they would still pay Delle Donne.
Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks announced that she would be entering the WNBA bubble with her 11-year-old daughter, Lailaa. Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith expressed a degree of apprehension for playing the season in the bubble, stating that she is “conflicted.”
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