Opinion: Why Djokovic’s covid exemption matters

Yes, I too thought we’d be rid of this blog by now, but like coronavirus, it keeps on coming back. But unlike covid-19, you can all choose to ignore this, and it matters little to me either way.

A crass segue into today’s topic yes, but what else do you expect. We of course welcome the 2022 tennis season with the ongoing [and despite his own thoughts, very newsworthy] saga of Novak Djokovic, Covid vaccinations and the medical exemption he has this week been granted to play at the year’s first major.

Now, as tempting as it is to label any anti-vaxxer as deluded and gullible [and believe me I have seen it first-hand], I concede that things aren’t always that simple, especially when elite athletes are concerned. Anything from recovery time to any number of days missing precious practice or match-play prep, is to be considered.

If concerns for the unvaccinated sportspeople were all of similar ilk then it would be easier to forgive them, but all-too-often their reasons stem from hokum and nonsense.

But – at least on the surface so far – it seems incredibly hypocritic, insensitive and quite literally dangerous pandering to allow Novak to waltz unvaccinated into a country that has seen stricter measures than the UK applied, fewer antigen tests easily available and which has demanded both the men’s and women’s governing bodies to ramp up their own vaccination assurances, although seemingly not for the world’s best player clearly.

It sounds dramatic but we have seen how the number of hospitalisations and worse have continued to rise amongst the unvaccinated worldwide, no matter their age or health, so to let a player into such an environment has rightly left the Oz locals and a good portion of Djoko’s fellow players unimpressed yet unsurprised.

We saw with Formula One how quickly and how blatantly a sport can shoot itself in the foot and render its rulebooks wholly meaningless when putting spectacle and PR ahead of safety and protocol.

At the moment at least, this has dangerous echoes of the same.

Photo from media.npr.org

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