Novak Djokovic Covid Controversy

Jonathan Good
Leans Left
Stephen Webber
Leans Right

Novak Djokovic is a Serbian tennis player who currently ranks as the best in the world. He holds a record (shared with two other players) for winning the most Grand Slam titles ever (20). This past week, players from around the world travelled to Melbourne, Australia, for the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam event of the year. As they arrived, they faced the country’s strict Covid-19 protocols. Djokovic is learning that lesson the hard way, as he spent the end of last week in an immigrant detention hotel.

Australia has some of the strictest restrictions globally, including requiring foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated, with few exceptions. While the unvaccinated without an exemption may enter the country, they must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Even before the Covid-19 situation, Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open had been uncertain. The star is a vocal vaccine skeptic and previously mulled not attending the tournament because of its requirements. However, it appears he ultimately decided to participate. 

Last Tuesday, Djokovic announced he had received an “exemption permission” on Twitter and would participate in the competition. The tournament’s organizers confirmed the exemption, saying that two different independent medical panels evaluated Djokovic’s request, including one appointed by the state of Victoria’s Department of Health. These panels exempted Djokovic because he had been infected with Covid-19 in the past six months, though border officials warned this would not qualify as “fully vaccinated.” When he arrived on Wednesday, immigration officials at the airport detained him before ultimately canceling his visa. They then transferred him to the Park Hotel in Melbourne, which officials use as a quarantine and immigration detention facility.

On Monday, Djokovic won a federal court battle for Australia to reinstate his visa, though the dispute is not over. Australia’s immigration minister could personally intervene to cancel Djokovic’s visa. This move would mean deportation for Djokovic and possibly a three-year ban from returning to Australia. The feud has become a political firestorm. Some initially criticized the exemption, saying the government allowed famous travelers to skirt the strict requirements its citizens faced. Others believe the move was a political strategy to appear tough on Covid-19, as elections occur in May.

Left Narrative

Despite the havoc that the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked around the world, anti-vaxxers continue to ignore restrictions. Even worse, many governments fail to hold these individuals accountable for their indifference. Such is the case with tennis star Novak Djokovic. Amid surging Covid-19 cases in Australia, Djokovic flaunted the country’s vaccination requirements, spreading anti-science beliefs to his fanbase and weaponizing them against a government trying to protect its citizens. Sports organizations have allowed athletes like Djokovic to undermine public health to keep their comfortable profit margins for too long. It is time to send Djokovic back home and show him that Covid-19 restrictions apply to all, even the famous.

Left-Lean Narrative

Right-Lean Narrative

Right Narrative

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is wrongly using Novak Djokovic as a scapegoat to protect his government in the upcoming elections from the consequences of his failed Covid-19 policies. Australia has some of the worst Covid policies in the world including the Centre for National Resilience in Howard Springs. The Centre is a mandatory quarantine camp where Australian citizens are held prisoner by guards. One man who tried to escape was apprehended, tested negative for Covid, and forced to remain in the camp. The Australian government is even terrorizing its aboriginal population by forcing them into these quarantine camps. Djokovic was met with this same draconian force upon his arrival. His passport was seized, he was interrogated for hours, and forced to sleep at the airport until his lawyers could make contact. Thankfully the courts released him, but other travelers without legendary names may struggle to enter the country.

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