Novak Djokovic doesn’t deserve special treatment in Australia

Updated 8:20 p.m. ET on January 15, 2022

After a dramatic week-long fight with the world’s best male tennis player, Australian immigration authorities have wisely decided to revoke Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time because he flouted the country’s COVID-19 policies. . While Australian authorities and tennis officials are not beyond reproach, this is a massive self-inflicted PR crisis for Djokovic that has tainted his legacy.

The 34-year-old defending Australian Open champion could easily have defended his title by getting a safe and highly effective vaccine that would protect him and others from coronavirus. Instead, he, like some other top athletes, put on a show trying to bend the rules, showing that besides COVID, the other disease the world is battling is selfishness.

Yesterday, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke released a statement explaining that his decision to again deny Djokovic the chance to compete for his 10th Australian Open title in Melbourne was made “on the grounds it was in the public interest to do so. “Djokovic’s legal team is appealing this judgment. But if Djokovic had any sense and any respect for his sport, he would accept the consequences and leave the country.

Unfortunately, the tennis star is one of the famous athletes who would rather create chaos around them than get shot. In the United States, the Green Bay Packers spoiled quarterback Aaron Rodgers this season as he tricked reporters and fans into thinking he had been vaccinated. Even though Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving can’t legally play home games due to New York’s vaccination mandate, the team brought him back anyway, fueling some speculation that the team could just accept a fine of $5,000 per game and let him play. (Fortunately, the NBA probably wouldn’t allow it.)

Djokovic also has catalysts. Tennis Australia – the group that organizes the Australian Open – and some government officials appear to have given Djokovic false confidence that the medical exemption he received to compete in the Open would stand up to further scrutiny. This was not the case. According to court documents, Djokovic received an exemption from tournament organizers as he tested positive for COVID-19 in December. A doctor and an independent panel appointed by the state of Victoria, where the Open is being held, also reportedly backed Djokovic to receive a bye.

But that doesn’t absolve Djokovic, who brought a lot of unnecessary drama with him to Australia.

After landing in the country and being thoroughly questioned at the airport by immigration officials, Djokovic was refused entry and his visa was cancelled. He was then taken to a detention hotel, where he spent several days while his legal team challenged the decision. At first, Djokovic seemed likely to get what he wanted. Four days after his arrest, a federal judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa and immediately ordered authorities to release him, not because it was proven the athlete was right, but because the judge found that Djokovic had not had sufficient time to respond to the threat of visa cancellation.

But his fortunes turned again when immigration officials realized he had not been entirely truthful in his statements. Djokovic admitted in an Instagram post that he never disclosed on his travel declaration form that he had visited multiple countries in the two weeks before arriving in Australia. Djokovic excused it as an ‘administrative error’ and blamed his agent for filling out the paperwork incorrectly. A more plausible explanation is that Djokovic was simply determined to break the rules.

Close media scrutiny of his schedule and social media posts also revealed that he had been attending public events in his native Serbia in mid-December when he said he had tested positive for coronavirus. This conduct might be more forgivable if his behavior at the start of the pandemic had not been equally reckless.

Last June, Djokovic hosted a charity tennis tournament in Serbia which turned into a super coronavirus spread event. Djokovic and his wife, Jelena, tested positive along with several other international tennis professionals who were in attendance. Numerous photos and videos have emerged of Djokovic and other attendees without masks, social distancing, hugs and parties. Even Nick Kyrgios, a polarizing player who is no stranger to rash behavior, lambasted Djokovic and the other players on social media. Kyrgios tweeted“Prayers to all players who have contracted COVID-19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that’s been ‘irresponsible’ or categorized as ‘stupidity’ – that takes the cake.

Djokovic is also a hypocrite. When tennis star Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open last year, citing how mandatory press conferences put her mental health at risk, Djokovic was among the voices sternly insisting that the rules are the rules. “I understand that press conferences can sometimes be very unpleasant,” Djokovic said at the time. “And it’s not something that you like, always, you know, especially if you lose a game or something. But it’s part of the sport and your life on the circuit. It’s something that we have to do, otherwise we will be fined.

Under Australian law, Djokovic could now be banned from obtaining a visa from the country for three years if he is deported. Djokovic has won 20 men’s Grand Slam titles and is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for most of all time. If participation in the Australian Open is not an option in the foreseeable future, it could threaten Djokovic’s opportunity to make tennis history alone.

Djokovic has been skeptical of vaccines since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and has never made a secret of his firm opposition to vaccination mandates. For an athlete of his fame to use his platform in such a destructive way is bad enough; even more despicable is that Djokovic seems so comfortable exploiting his immense privilege to endanger the health and safety of others. It’s particularly insulting to the people of Australia, who have adhered to some of the toughest restrictions during the pandemic in an effort to keep their hospitalizations and death rates low.

Sacrifice is what caring communities do – and it’s something Djokovic knows nothing about. As the best player in men’s tennis, Djokovic has a responsibility to be a good ambassador for his sport. But that, like Australia’s COVID rules, is just another requirement he has failed to meet.

This article has been updated to clarify Australian officials’ reasoning for revoking Djokovic’s visa for a second time.

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