Novak Djokovic, the world’s current number one men’s tennis player, has stepped into the global spotlight, and not for good reasons. Unvaccinated, the Serbian tennis player faced conflict upon entering Australia to gain his fourth consecutive win at the Australian Open. After two court cases involving two prime ministers, the tennis player ended up being deported due to his incompliance with border rules. The result of the case has let down fans. However, with surging cases and the rise of the more contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19, his deportation should be seen as the most reasonable conclusion. In the midst of a global pandemic threatening lives, upon his entrance, Djokovic should not be seen as a tennis star, but simply a traveler who does not abide by Australia’s vaccine mandate.
The Australian Open is one of the four major tennis events each year, inviting the top female and male players from around the world. This year, Djokovic was expected to defend his tenth title at the Australian Open, until he was faced with Australia’s immigration minister. According to the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs, travelers entering must be fully vaccinated, which is thoroughly defined in their travel guidelines. (https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/vaccinated-travellers) Djokovic, who has not been vaccinated and shows no interest in receiving the vaccine, did not meet the credentials for entry.
The first court hearing consisted of Djokovic and his legal team appealing his initial visa cancellation, which he then won. However, once Australia’s immigration minister got involved in a second court hearing, the government finalized his deportation. The main concern of the court highlighted “safe guarding Australia’s social cohesion” and continuing to “keep [our] borders strong,” as commented by Australian prime minister in an article by CNN.(https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/16/tennis/novak-djokovic-australian-open-federal-court-hearing-spt-intl-hnk/index.html) These values established by government officials keep Australia and its people safe from the variant outbreak. As Djokovic is a guest coming into Australia, his entry should not be prioritized over the well defined travel policies. Despite the disappointment of fans not able to see their favorite player, its needs to be understood that Australia’s prime minister simply enforced their country’s travel policy regarding vaccination to a traveler who did not meet the criteria. Consistency of mandates helps promote the country’s endorsement of public safety. Australia’s decision to deport Djokovic, while some may see it to be unreasonable, was necessary to prevent any gray area regarding their Covid-19 protocols and promote equal treatment of individuals, merely on the basis of vaccination status.
Due to the new Omicron variant, Australia has established a stricter travel policy to combat the worsening health circumstances. These restrictions need to be thorough to prevent ambiguity regarding who can and cannot enter the country, and Australia has a clear protocol for vaccinated traveling. As outlined by Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs, “If you have not been vaccinated with the above doses or schedule, you do not meet Australia’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated.’” (https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/vaccinated-travellers) A clear definition of “fully vaccinated” is established by the government. Yet, it seems to be less clear when it comes to Djokovic’s court case. An average, non-vaccinated traveler would be told to leave at entry point at Australia’s border due to incompliance with mandates. However, Djokovic, similarly unvaccinated, was still considered for entry. His fame and profitability were all contributing factors for this conflict. If Djokovic were to be allowed entry, as he was for a week after winning his first appeal, the vaccination protocols for travel in Australia would be heavily meddled with contradicting incidents. The country draws a strict line of who cannot enter, and Djokovic should be no exception to it.
With regards to the many fans devastated to not see the world number one defend his title, the values of the country need to be taken into account above the spectators’ desires. The border policies established by the Australian government need to be complied with, as it is the country’s people that are at stake, not the people entering. Djokovic and every tennis player coming from around the world to compete are all risk factors, which is why it is crucial for every individual to follow Australia’s mandates. However, as he does not fit the criteria of the vaccination mandate, the government of Australia should not have even considered his entry at all. His win streak should not imply any weariness towards the conflict with his deportation, as the issue relies on his vaccination status. Additionally, the fans’ disappointment needs to be disregarded when it comes to combating the Covid-19 outbreak and safeguarding the public health of the nation. The Australian government has the responsibility to keep its people safe and healthy, and therefore, these values need to be prioritized over defending titles.
While Djokovic is one individual against vaccination out of many, his actions have an impact on a global population. If Australia did allow his entry, the nation would be placed in a state of conflict and confusion regarding their own Covid-19 policies. Novak Djokovic should not have pushed past national level mandates in the first place, but in response, the immigration minister of Australia did what was needed to be done to ensure health security. In times of a global pandemic, strict protocols are necessary, which should not exempt any one person because of their wealth, popularity, and even their title of being number one.