Stephen Dunmoye

The three-time US Open champion, Novak Djokovic was prevented from participating at the final grand slam of the year due to his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The United States requires non-citizens to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to enter the country, meaning that Djokovic could not travel to New York.

The 35-year-old, whose vaccine status also meant he missed out on the Australian Open in January, announced his withdrawal from the US Open last week, adding that he plans to “keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again.”

Djokovic has received significant backing from some in the tennis world, including John McEnroe, who referred to the ban as a “joke”.

Djokovic’s longtime rival Rafael Nadal called the Serb’s absence “very sad news”, while defending US Open champion Daniil Medvedev questioned the law that kept Djokovic from entering the country.

Most notable, however, are the conservative politicians who threw their support behind Djokovic in an attempt to criticize the US government’s Covid-19 mitigation efforts. For example, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, a vocal opponent of Covid-19 mandates and regulations, was quick to call Djokovic’s exclusion “stupid.”

“They’re not letting Djokovic come to the United States to play in the US Open because of the shot! He’s already had Covid,” DeSantis said. “And the shot is not stopping you from getting this. It’s so bizarre. It’s so stupid that they’re doing this, but you had a lot of these bizarre policies going on in these other states.”

Shortly thereafter, Republican congresswoman Claudia Tenney announced on Twitter that she planned to boycott the US Open after Djokovic was “wrongly denied” access.

Richard Grenell, a member of Donald Trump’s Cabinet in 2020, tweeted that “the US Open cheapens itself when it bans one of the best players in the world” – a statement echoed by Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson, who called the ban “idiotic, pointless, and destructive.”

Elsewhere, prominent conservative pundit Clay Travis called the Djokovic ban a “mockery of science” before writing a piece for Fox News calling the Serbian tennis star and other notable unvaccinated athletes, such as Kyrie Irving and Aaron Rogers, “modern day heirs to Muhammad Ali.”
“I believe that our country’s response to Covid is the biggest failure of American public policy since the Vietnam War,” Travis wrote.

“Remember, after all, it was the best and brightest in our country, the experts of their day, who all told us that fighting in Vietnam was a necessity. But all those experts, with all their fancy degrees and brilliant training, got it wrong. And the Muhammad Alis, the non-experts and the regular people speaking out against the war, got it right.”