Tennis star Novak Djokovic has said that he is opposed to vaccinations. Australia now requires people entering the country to be vaccinated or apply for a special exemption. Djokovic had applied for and got an exemption from the Australian tennis body that issues such exemptions so that he could play in the Australian Open that takes place starting on January 17th. But later it turned out that he had applied for a visa that does not allow for medical exemptions. This caused a furore with people complaining that he was being given special treatment.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison then stepped in and said only the federal government has the authority to decide who is allowed into the country and under what circumstances and that he was not eligible to enter. The Victorian state government also refused to weigh in in support of Djokovic’s exemption. Meanwhile, Djokovic and his entourage had already departed for Australia on a long flight and upon arrival he was separated from the rest and held isolated under an armed guard at the Melbourne airport while his case was deliberated. In the end, his visa was cancelled and he was asked to leave.
Novak Djokovic’s attempts to compete at the Australian Open this month have collapsed after the No 1-ranked male tennis player was told his visa has been rejected. He is due to be flown out of Melbourne on Thursday amid a spiralling outcry over a controversial “medical exemption” agreed by the tournament’s organisers.
The reigning Australian Open champion was held up for several hours at passport control on Wednesday night at Tullamarine airport in Melbourne, the host city of the tournament, as he was questioned.
The exact grounds for Djokovic’s initial exemption were unclear, although his opposition to vaccination is well known, fuelling the criticism inside Melbourne, Victoria and across Australia.
Last year Djokovic said he was “opposed to vaccination” and added: “I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel … But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.”
So who provided the exemption and on what grounds? Australia’s tennis governing body Tennis Australia seems to be the one that made the decision and they said that exemptions are reviewed by a panel with the names of applicants redacted.
Shortly after Djokovic announced his “exemption permission”, Tennis Australia clarified that Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption and that his application was reviewed by two separate independent medical panels, firstly from Tennis Australia and then provided by the Victorian government. The personal information of each applicant was redacted. Craig Tiley, the Tennis Australia chief executive, revealed 26 tennis players and support staff had applied for exemptions with only a handful receiving them.
Djokovic has not publicly disclosed the medical condition that his application supposedly had used to get the exemption and that, coupled with his openly expressed opposition to vaccinations and his reckless partying during the pandemic, has hardened public opposition to him. Even Australian tennis great Rod Laver expressed skepticism.
The Australian tennis legend Rod Laver said in an interview with the Herald Sun that Djokovic should reveal the reason he was granted a medical exemption. “If he’s got a reason for [the exemption] then … we should know it,” Laver said. “Yes, you’re a great player and you’ve performed and won so many tournaments, so, it can’t be physical. So what is the problem?”
Djokovic’s main rival Rafael Nadal has also been short on sympathy for him.
“The only thing that I can say is I believe in what the people who know about medicine say, and if the people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine. That’s my point of view,” said Nadal.
He continued: “I went through the Covid. I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don’t have any problem playing here. That’s the only clear thing. The rest of the things, I don’t want to have or to give to you an opinion that I don’t have the whole information. The only clear thing for me is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world in my opinion have been suffering enough to not follow the rules.”
“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem. He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences. Of course I don’t like the situation that is happening. In some way I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.
In addition to being opposed to the vaccine, Djokovic also seems to be a big believer in woo.
Let's not lose sight of how wildly anti-science Djokovic has publicly been for years.
Here he was last year preaching about how you can change water with emotion.
Naive, but maybe these real consequences today can be a reality check for his nonsense?pic.twitter.com/LyJbJTvb9W
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 5, 2022
Djokovic’s lawyers have appealed his expulsion and he has been moved to an immigration hotel while a court considers his appeal. The hearing will be on Monday.
The Serbian president has also weighed in, demanding that he should be allowed in to Australia, summoning the Australian ambassador (a standard diplomatic ritual to signal displeasure), and threatening to make it an international incident.
There are going to be demands that the authorities who gave the initial exemption or Djokovic himself reveal exactly the grounds on which it was granted. This report says that his exemption was based on him claiming to have contracted Covid six months ago but that may have been insufficient to get an exemption.
The reason that I am posting this, even though it has no substantive value, is that it illustrates how people can get angry, and justifiably so, when they think that elites are getting privileged treatment that allows them to circumvent the rules while the hoi polloi have to endure all the hardships that the pandemic had wrought. We have seen this time and time again with politicians who are caught not following the safety guidelines that they urge on everyone else.