Jonquel Jones, the star center for the Connecticut Sun, has decided not to play in the WNBA this season because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Jones led the Sun to the WNBA Finals last year, averaging 17.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in the postseason after putting up 14.6 points and 9.7 during the regular season.
She becomes the first WNBA player to cite the virus in opting out of the upcoming season.
Renee Montgomery, the former UConn guard now with the Atlanta Dream, had previously announced she will skip the season to focus on social justice issues.
"This was one of the toughest decisions I have made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in," Jones said Monday in a statement.
Curt Miller, the team's general manager and coach, said the Sun respect her choice.
"We recognize the amount of unique challenges, sacrifices, and unknowns this season presents, and from the top down, there is an unwavering commitment to support each player's respective decision," he said. "We look forward to having JJ back leading us next summer."
The Sun had already lost star point guard Courtney Williams and forward Shekinna Stricklen to free agency in the offseason. But the team also acquired veterans DeWanna Bonner, Briann January and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and were expected to again compete for a title in 2020.
Washington Mystics players Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders are opting out of participating in the 2020 WNBA season for the league's reigning champions.
In a social media posting on Monday, Cloud cited a desire to fight on the front lines for social reform, while Sanders explained in a statement issued by the club that taking the season off is "what is best for my health and family."
"There's a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest being that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball," Cloud, Washington's career leader in assists, wrote on social media. "I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can't matter."
She added four hashtags to the message, including TogetherWeStand, illbeback and 2021.
"We are trying to do our best to make sure we have an action plan for this week, next month, two months from now, six months from now," Cloud said recently. "I hate when they are a fad. Once it fades away, people don't talk about it. This is the life of every black American in this country that doesn't go away.
"We can't take off the colour of our skin. It's extremely important we use our platform and give back to our people. Do what we can so that change does happen."
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Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault said the team respects both players' decisions.
"Her commitment to social justice issues is of utmost importance to her and, therefore, to the Mystics organisation," Thibault said of Cloud. "We will continue to be partners with her and all of our players on their commitment to social justice reform as we go forward into this season and beyond."
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The WNBA last week announced plans to play a 22-game schedule that would begin in late July in Florida without fans in attendance because of the pandemic. The league plans to hold training camps and house players at the IMG Academy and play all the games at the facility in Bradenton or other nearby locations.
WNBA players have until Thursday to opt out of the season.