Novak Djokovic’s Vaccine Exemption Battle: Science and Common Sense Prevail


Anthony Abrahantes

The Australian Open always attracts mass attention because of the incredible tennis, however. This year a new wave of viewers are tuning in to determine if Novak Djokovic’s being given an unfair advantage.

Emmanuelle Desmet, Staff Writer

The current number one in the world for men’s tennis Novak Djokovic has been embroiled in controversy over the past couple of months due to his staunch refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Though the inoculation of tennis players against COVID-19 should always be strictly enforced, it is particularly essential now given that the Australian Open, one of the four most important tennis tournaments of the calendar year, starts in less than a week.

Djokovic has always been vocal about his belief in alternative science, including the idea that people can use their minds to turn polluted water into drinkable water. In turn, he opposed the vaccination and continuously ignores public health measures. For example, a day after testing positive for COVID-19, he was seen at a public event without wearing a mask and has since admitted that he did not follow proper isolation protocol after receiving the positive test result. For these reasons, his insistence to avoid protecting himself against COVID-19 at all costs should not be appeased. The pandemic is still an ongoing threat, especially to immunocompromised people. Allowing unvaccinated athletes to participate unnecessarily puts the fans and employees of the tournament at risk.

Despite initially stating that no unvaccinated athlete would be allowed to play at the 2022 Australian Open, the tournament’s organizers granted Djokovic a medical exemption on the grounds that he had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last six months. He did not experience severe illness, which is one of the conditions that an athlete must meet to receive an exemption according to Australian law. But, would this exception have been given to all other players or is favoritism at play?

I would not have allowed Djokovic to play because the only reason the tournament ruled that way was for views. There was no real medical reasoning and Djokovic was only going to be there to ensure the best gameplay, rather than actually trying to ensure the safety of the players,

— sophomore Steffi Sarmiento-Mena

It is true that a significant part of the problem lies with Tennis Australia and the tournament for communicating the rules in a confusing and misleading way. Nevertheless, this medical exemption is completely unjust because it allowed a prominent player to sidestep the rules to seemingly receive better television engagement for the tournament. Indeed, it is clear that this situation would not and did not occur with any low-ranked player, which exemplifies that famous players are used for more than just an entertaining game.

“It seems like there was a lot of confusion on the matter of when exactly Novak received the positive test result but he still should not have been out doing public appearances soon after. I believe that upon testing positive, he should have immediately quarantined in order to avoid exposing others to the danger,” sophomore Lenox Balzebre said.

Eventually, with outrage from the global community, the Australian Border Force detained Djokovic at the airport and later transferred him to an immigration detention facility, stating that he had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” for entry. This science-backed course of action was the right thing to do because it held Djokovic accountable for his reckless actions. If he were let in freely, it would be a massive disservice to Australians who have been in strict lockdown since the start of this pandemic.

Unfortunately, Djokovic’s high-prized attorneys fought the decision, and a hearing ensued in which the judge ruled in his favor. He was allowed for a short time to stay in Australia and play in the upcoming tournament. However, common sense and the government’s public health-focused policy seem to have prevailed because the immigration minister of Australia has revoked Djokovic’s visa for the second time and he is now detained once again. A court hearing will take place on Sunday to decide his fate, but it looks like the tennis star will be deported once and for all.

The judge’s ruling was a slap in the face of responsible Australian citizens who abide by the rule of law day in and day out, but this decision sends a message to Australia and the world that no one is above the law, regardless of the size of their bank account and the quality of their legal representation.