Throughout the pandemic, I have often heard the phrase “we are all in this together”. However, the last 18 months have shown me that the elite in society have never been with us at any stage. From ‘Golf-gate’ in Ireland to the various gatherings organised by Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, those with power in society have often broken Covid restrictions while ordinary people suffered.
The most high-profile sporting example is the current saga involving world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic. Ahead of the Australian Open, the Serbian tennis player has surrounded himself in controversy due to his conflict with Australia’s vaccinations laws.
The bizarre timeline of events has shown me the extreme disregard that Djokovic has for Australia’s laws. This is because in April 2020, Djokovic made it clear he was against vaccines, months before vaccines were even produced. Fast forward to October 2021, he refused to make his vaccination status public, despite needing to be vaccinated in order to participate in the Australian Open.
When he arrived in Australia, he was detained by border control as he has arrived in the country unvaccinated. Djokovic claims he had a medical exemption as he contracted the virus in December. However, he has now admitted he took part in an interview and photoshoot with well-known French newspaper L’Equipe, while he had Covid-19.
Despite his visa cancellation being overruled, I believe that it would be irresponsible to allow Djokovic to take part in the Australian Open. His blatant disregard for rules that so many have stuck by in order to keep safe in this pandemic is a kick in the teeth for millions of people.
There is no doubt that Djokovic will go down as a legend of the sport. With twenty Grand Slams to his name, he is one of the best to ever do it. However, he should be punished for his behaviour though this saga, putting the health and lives of so many people at risk. Millions of people who follow the sport have lost so much to Covid, from meeting friends and family members, to jobs, to health complications and sadly losing loved ones.
For me, the reaction to Djokovic’s stance on vaccination has been telling to say the least. He has not received support from those within the game, with Rafael Nadal believing Djokovic has brought this on himself. “If he wanted, he would be playing without a problem. He has taken his own position. But there are consequences.”
While Djokovic is not receiving support from many within the support, far right figures such as Nigel Farage have rallied in support of Djokovic and his family.
Australia’s strict lockdown measures and stance on vaccinations is why the Australian Open can happen. Those who have worked hard must be shown the respect they deserve and as a result, I do not believe that Djokovic should be allowed to participate in the tournament. He was aware of the risk when he chose not to be vaccinated, despite one of the biggest tournaments of the year requiring participants to be vaccinated.
If normal people must follow rules and restrictions, why should professional athletes be any different?