Australia: Hold Djokovic accountable

Novak Djokovic, current world number one singles men’s tennis player, had his visa approved to play in the Australian Open despite concerns surrounding his COVID–19 history.

Courtesy of INQUIRER Sports

Novak Djokovic, current world number one singles men’s tennis player, had his visa approved to play in the Australian Open despite concerns surrounding his COVID–19 history.

On Jan. 10, the decision to cancel tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa, amid concerns about his vaccination status ahead of the 2022 Australian Open, was deemed “unreasonable” by an Australian judge. This ruling, in direct defiance of Australia’s immigration policy requiring all travelers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, serves as an example of yet another over entitled athlete who believes he is above the law due to his athletic ability. 

Djokovic, a native Serbian, apparently attended multiple public events, unmasked, on Dec. 16 and the days immediately following. Presuming that the positive test on Dec. 16 meant Djokovic had developed COVID-19 antibodies, the Australian province of Victoria granted Djokovic a medical exemption to play in the 2022 Australian Open, despite not being vaccinated. But according to new reporting by Der Spiegel (a German newspaper) and the New York Times, there seems to be a discrepancy in Djokovic’s COVID-19 test results and the dates of his tests, leading to the possibility that his results and/or test dates may have been altered.

With Djokovic’s controversial and suspicious COVID-19 history, surely there seems to be enough grounds to revoke Djokovic’s visa, right? Apparently not.

Simply because you are globally recognized and have an undisputed incredible athletic talent does not make you exempt from international law.”

— Henry Pratt

Why? Because he is Novak Djokovic, one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Simply because you are globally recognized and have an undisputed incredible athletic talent does not make you exempt from international law. The Australian government has gone to great lengths to keep their citizens healthy and safe against COVID-19. They enacted two separate lockdowns against COVID-19 in Mar. of 2020 and again on Nov. 19, 2021. The ruling that allows Djokovic to play in the Australian Open is an insult to all the sacrifices and hardships Australian citizens have undergone to combat this global threat.

As a die-hard tennis fan, I know that the quality of play will diminish greatly in the men’s section of the Australian Open if Djokovic is not allowed to play. Rafa Nadal will likely play unopposed, his only real challenge coming from Daniil Medvedev, who he isn’t likely to face until the semi finals or the championship. But to give someone who is openly hostile to the COVID-19 vaccine and shows such a flagrant disregard for COVID-19 protocol a platform to spread their dangerous message not only endangers those immediately exposed to Djokovic, but others who may feel swayed by Djokovic’s cause. The 2022 Australian Open will continue to revolve around this scandal, distracting from the common love of tennis.  It will be, as Rafa Nadal aptly described it, “a circus.”

Despite the current validity of Djokovic’s visa, there is still a way for Australian authorities to revoke his visa. According to CNN, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, “reserves the right to personally intervene” in any cases he thinks requires immediate action. Hawke must be bold enough to deny Djokovic’s visa – not only to follow current COVID-19 immigration guidelines, but to show that nobody is above the law, regardless of economic status or athletic talent.