- Novak Djokovic has had his visa cancelled for a second time in the past week putting his ability to compete in the Australian Open in serious doubt.
- Djokovic received an ‘exemption’ from being vaccinated after claiming he had COVID-19 in December.
- Djokovic maintains a nonsensical attitude that he’s not subject to the same laws and regulations as every other person traveling to Australia.
I generally don’t pay much attention to tennis players. Nothing against them and nothing against the sport–I just don’t find them to be very interesting. Novak Djokovic is changing that and for all the wrong reasons. Djokovic continued his ascent to the top of the ‘least likable person in sports’ hit parade over the past few days due to a confluence of factors all related to his efforts to bulldoze his way into the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated. Never mind that every person traveling into Australia is *required* to be vaccinated. Djokovic is not vaccinated and won’t explain why–in fact, he won’t even confirm that he isn’t vaccinated despite it being completely obvious. In the past, Djokovic has commented that he’s ‘opposed’ to the concept of vaccinations entirely. No word if he’s also opposed to modern medicine, electricity and running water. I tried to determine where Djokovic had earned his medical degree but best as I can tell he didn’t attend college at all. Djokovic’s non-explanation about his vaccination status makes NFL blowhard Carson Wentz look thoughtful and candid by comparison.
Djokovic’s stupidity relative to not only his vaccination status but to *all* vaccinations is bad enough. I wonder how he reconciles the fact that at one point 3 out of every 10 people who contracted smallpox died but thanks to widespread vaccination no one dies of it anymore. Like, literally–no one has naturally contracted smallpox since 1977 and no one has died of it since 1978. The thing that makes Djokovic so contemptible is his arrogance and sense of entitlement that somehow he should not be subject to the same laws and regulations as everyone else. Unfortunately, he’s been supported in his ego trip by the President of Serbia who got involved when Djokovic was forced to spend four days quarantining in a Melbourne hotel. Not that the had a good rationale for his anger–he just felt that Djokovic shouldn’t be forced to mingle with ‘commoners’.
Earlier this week, Djokovic admitted that he lied about his whereabouts during the 14 days prior to his travel to Australia on his visa application. He claims he had COVID-19 in December but he was seen making the rounds throughout Europe–without wearing a mask, naturally. He is also getting some heat for conducting an interview with the French newspaper L’Equipe on December 18–despite him knowing at the time he’d tested positive for COVID-19. The entire narrative Djokovic spins around his positive test and subsequent actions is sketchy:
Deportation from Australia may be the least of Djokovic’s problems. Djokovic admitted Tuesday night to knowingly conducting an interview with the French newspaper L’Equipe while testing positive for COVID-19.
In an Instagram post, Djokovic explained how the incident occurred. He attended a basketball game in Belgrade, Serbia on Dec. 14 in which “a number of people” later tested positive for COVID-19. Djokovic says he took a rapid antigen test and PCR test two days later, getting a negative result from the rapid test.
On Dec. 17, Djokovic attended a children’s tennis event in Belgrade and again received a negative result from a COVID-19 rapid test. Djokovic’s PCR test, however, arrived after the event and was positive. Knowing the results from his PCR test, Djokovic conducted an interview and photoshoot with the French newspaper L’Equipe on Dec. 18.
Why would Djokovic do such a thing? Because he’s such a great guy and didn’t want to deny the newspaper reporter the privilege of breathing the same air as he does, even just for a few minutes:
Djokovic said he conducted the interview because “I didn’t want to let the journalist down,” but he now realizes it was a mistake.
“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” Djokovic wrote.
If Djokovic did lie to Australian authorities about his positive COVID-19 test, he could reportedly face up to five years in prison.
But back up a bit–Djokovic hasn’t actually admitted that he lied on his visa application. Instead, he’s admitted that it ‘contained inaccurate information’. Of course he’s not taking responsibility for that ‘inaccurate information’–he’s throwing his ‘support team’ under the bus. Anyway, as you’re no doubt aware the initial revocation of his visa was overturned because he wasn’t given ample time to consult with lawyers beforehand. This is a valid point, but my hunch is that the average citizen who was being deported after willfully lying on their visa application wouldn’t be given this ‘benefit of the doubt’. After this transpired, Djokovic made clear that ‘justice had been served’ and that he should be allowed to stay in the country because he’s there to play in a really important tennis tournament–and if that’s not a reason to contravene any number of laws and regulation what is?
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke–who apparently doesn’t realize that Djokovic is there to play in a *really important* tennis tournament–has now used his ministerial discretion to cancel Djokovic’s visa on ‘public interest grounds’. Djokovic’s legal team is appealing, of course, and their rationale is bizarre–that Minister Hawke is concerned that the tennis player will galvanize anti-vax sentiment if he’s allowed to stay. Furthermore, Hawke isn’t taking into account that if Djokovic is given the ‘bum’s rush’ that he’ll be seen as something of a ‘martyr’ by Australia’s tinfoil hat wearing demographic. Uh…what?
“The minister only considers the potential for exciting anti-vax sentiment in the event that he’s present,” Wood said.
Hawke’s reasons do not take into account the potential impact on anti-vaxxers of Djokovic being forcibly removed, Wood said.
“The minister gives no consideration whatsoever to what effect that may have on anti-vax sentiment and indeed on public order,” Wood said. “That seems patently irrational.”
It sounds like his laywers are trying to suggest that if Djokovic is not allowed to defy the vaccine mandate and not allowed to get away with lying on his visa application to play in a really important tennis tournament that Australia’s ‘public order’ will be threatened? Even if you can come up with some logic in this inscrutable line of argumentation there’s not much to suggest that the citizens of Australia and/or the state of Victoria would riot in the streets should he be deported.
The whole episode has touched a nerve in Australia, particularly in Victoria state, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and there is a vaccination rate among adults of more than 90%.
Australia is facing a massive surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state. Although many infected people aren’t getting as sick as they did in previous outbreaks, the surge is still putting a severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It’s also causing disruptions to workplaces and supply chains.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t come out and say he’ll be happy to see Djokovic go but the subtext is there:
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”
Another comment from Morrison:
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.”
The other competitors at the Australian Open are no doubt anxious to get it resolved. Andy Murray was very diplomatic:
“It’s not a good situation for anyone. Just want it obviously to get resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now — not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.”
World #4 ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas not so much:
World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, speaking before Hawke’s decision, said Djokovic was “playing by his own rules” and making vaccinated players “look like fools.”
At this point, Djokovic needs to hit the legal equivalent of a 7-10 split:
“Djokovic’s lawyers need to get him two urgent orders. One is an injunction preventing his deportation, like the order he gained last week. The second would make Hawke grant Djokovic a visa to play.”
Djokovic’s family has practically come unhinged, at various points claiming that he is being ‘held captive’ as a political prisoner, he’s being tortured and has encouraged people to ‘gather in the street’ threatening that said mob will riot if the tennis player doesn’t get his way. What’s really bizarre is that the President of Serbia along with a good many Serbians are likewise foaming at the mouth. Here’s what Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic had to say:
“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately. In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice. Novak is strong, as we all know.”
I’m not aware of any precedent in ‘international law’ stipulating that really good tennis players are exempt from the travel regulations of a sovereign nation. Djokovic is a obviously a big deal in Serbia to the point that it looks like the citizens of the country are drinking the Kool-Aid. One comment on Twitter suggested that Djokovic ‘use his influence’ to completely marginalize the Australian Open and render it irrelevant. Not sure how that’s going to work. Ironically, Djokovic has criticized athletes that publicly talk about the mental health challenges of competing at a high level sniffing that ‘pressure is a privilege’ and that ‘athletes need to learn to handle pressure’.