Image Courtesy of Carine06 at Wikimedia Commons
Elizabeth Clarke, Queen’s University
Edited by Sandrine Jacquot
Novac Djokovic’s record-breaking career has made him a household name around the world, but the 20-time Grand Slam winner has recently attracted a different type of media attention. Due to his failure to satisfy the country’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements, the 34-year-old athlete was deported from Australia, preventing him from defending his title at the 2022 Australian Open. Djokovic seems to feel that his celebrity status exempts him from the law, a detrimental attitude towards public health for someone with such a large fanbase. Rather than promoting compliance with public health measures, his actions continue to fuel anti-vax beliefs. Examination of the events from January 4th to 16th sheds light on the tennis star’s truly disappointing disregard for the safety of others.
Prior to the unstoppable Omicron variant, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fauci praised Australia for its national response to COVID-19. The country has been adamant about upholding strict public health measures throughout the pandemic and has continued to do so in planning for the 2022 Australian Open. All persons are required by law to be double vaccinated in order to enter Australia without a 14-day isolation period, except for a small few who are granted medical exemptions. On January 4th, the unvaccinated Novac Djokovic announced on Twitter that he would be “heading down under with an exemption permission,” (a post met with significant backlash from the Australian public). However, upon his arrival in Australia, no such exemption was accepted and Djokovic was rejected at the border. His visa was canceled immediately, landing the unjabbed athlete in an isolation hotel in Melbourne where he would spend the next 5 days. As the athlete’s legal team worked around the clock to challenge the visa cancellation, Djokovic’s Australian nightmare had become a prominent news headline. The investment of the public’s attention sparked non-masked, anti-vax protests outside Djokovic’s hotel window and further uproar in Serbia – with the Serbian president accusing Australia of “harassment”.
On January 10th, Djokovic’s legal team defended his case in the Australian court. They emphasized that the athlete had been treated unfairly upon his arrival to the country, as the visa cancellation had been processed despite his request to wait until 8:30 am local time to contact his lawyers. To the surprise of many, Judge Anthony Kelly agreed, and Djokovic was allowed to walk free. However, on January 14th, his visa was again canceled, and the tennis player was ultimately deported on January 16th. As the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “no one is above the rules”.
Amidst the heated legal situation, it was revealed that Djokovic has been infected with COVID-19 twice, most recently on December 16th. The tennis player appeared at unmasked events throughout his infection period. Faced with these accusations, he claimed that he did not know his test result when he attended a gathering with young fans on December 17. However, he did admit to attending other unmasked events having been aware of his infection status. Djokovic may be ignorant, but he is not naive. Knowingly spreading a virus as contagious and dangerous as COVID-19 – to willingly put others’ lives at risk to promote one’s own celebrity – is appalling. Equally as unbecoming is the athlete’s refusal to admit the severity of his wrongs: in an Instagram post from January 12, he claimed to have been the subject of “misinformation” and essentially blamed the entire visa scandal on an agent for making an error on his immigration form. Several comments on this post are in support of the tennis player – many are not. One simply reads: “Man, why don’t you just get the vaccine?”. Good question.
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Carine06. (2018). Novak Djokovic Queen’s Club 2018.jpg. photograph, UK.
Djokovic, N. (2022, January 4). Happy New Year! wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.i’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over Break & Today I’m heading down under with an exemption permission. let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iso2d4. Twitter. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://twitter.com/DjokerNole/status/1478319120626196482?s=20&t=6S5Dj9lwz3SHgCG7aTzI1g
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