As the US Open began this week, one of the more contentious aspects of the tournament was the nonattendance of Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic, the three-time US Open champion, was prevented from participating in the final of the grand slam tournament of the year due to his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid-19, which means that he could not travel to New York and enter the country as the United States requires non-citizen fully vaccinated citizens to be.
Once again, the 35-year-old missed out on the Australian Open in January, as he announced his withdrawal from the US Open last week. Despite this setback, he remains positive and determined to keep his plans on track, adding that he is in good shape and waiting for another opportunity. Additionally, he mentioned his positive spirit and the importance of staying in shape, highlighting the significance of the vaccine status.
Several individuals in the tennis community, including John McEnroe, have provided considerable support to Djokovic, describing the prohibition as a “mockery”. Rafael Nadal, Djokovic’s longstanding adversary, deemed the absence of the Serbian player as “extremely disheartening”, whereas Daniil Medvedev, the defending champion of the US Open, raised concerns about the legislation that prevented Djokovic from gaining entry into the nation.
“Idiotic.” Exclusion of Djokovic’s decision to disregard Covid-19 regulations and mandates was met with vocal opposition from his opponent, as well as criticism from Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida. Several conservative politicians, who are notable for their attempts to criticize the US government’s Covid-19 mitigation efforts, rallied behind Djokovic.
DeSantis stated, “However, many peculiar policies were being implemented in various states. It’s incredibly foolish that they are pursuing such actions. It’s exceedingly strange. The vaccine does not prevent individuals from contracting the virus. He has already recovered from Covid, thanks to the vaccine! They are prohibiting Djokovic from participating in the US Open held in the United States.”
“Claudia Tenney, a Republican congresswoman, announced on Twitter that Djokovic was wrongly denied access after she planned to boycott the US Open. Shortly after, Senator Ron Johnson echoed the statement, calling the ban destructive, pointless, and idiotic. Richard Grenell, a member of Donald Trump’s 2020 Cabinet, tweeted that when one of the best players in the world is banned, it cheapens the US Open.”
“Contemporary successors of Muhammad Ali,” like Kyrie Irving and Aaron Rogers, were referred to as such by prominent conservative commentator Clay Travis in an article for Fox News, following his characterization of the Djokovic ban as a “ridicule of scientific principles.” Travis’ comments were expressed in a different setting.
“Travis wrote,” the greatest failure of American public policy since the Vietnam War is our nation’s handling of the Covid pandemic, “I believe.” However, they were mistaken, despite their extensive education and training, all those knowledgeable individuals with their impressive qualifications, the experts of that era, who all insisted that engaging in the Vietnam War was essential. On the other hand, Muhammad Ali, along with the non-experts and ordinary citizens who voiced their opposition to the war, were correct. And let’s not forget, it was the most accomplished and intelligent individuals in our country, the experts of their time, who all advocated for the necessity of fighting in Vietnam.
A few Republican governors have filed lawsuits in an attempt to stop the Biden administration from enforcing Covid-19 vaccine mandates, including the unproven promotion of the antiparasitic drug Ivermectin. Many Republicans have voiced objections to efforts such as travel regulations, social distancing, mask mandates, and vaccine distribution. It is unsurprising that conservative support for Djokovic is given the opposition to vaccine mandates in the US, as these topics invoke debates about government oversight and personal autonomy, which are important to conservative voters.
Why is he currently a danger if he wasn’t one before? If he wasn’t a threat back then, why is he now? It is important to mention that Djokovic was permitted to compete in the previous year’s US Open, where he made it to the final. Additionally, the policy has only boosted Djokovic’s standing among anti-vaxx supporters. However, there is an argument to be made that prohibiting unvaccinated visitors from entering the United States is excessively harsh – most European countries do not have such restrictions – and that the policy has only enhanced Djokovic’s appeal among anti-vaxx sympathizers. Many conservative politicians, commentators, and activists who chose to align themselves with Djokovic have done so to further their own political agendas.
Let’s remember that this athlete, who is participating in a tournament organized during the height of the 2020 pandemic, had several positive Covid test results. Many fans have followed his hero’s journey and witnessed the consequences he suffered. It is important to note that vaccines have been proven to reduce hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid. Djokovic, an influential figure and a peak physical athlete, insists that he is not against vaccines, but rather chooses not to get vaccinated himself. It is not suggested to insist that Djokovic should get vaccinated if he believes that being a physically fit athlete is enough.
On an international platform, Djokovic has become a representation of defiance for right-wing politicians aiming to gain support from their supporters, commentators eager to criticize the government for alleged shortcomings, and individuals opposing vaccinations longing for their unscientific beliefs to be affirmed, nevertheless, despite his inadequate management of the pandemic in recent years.