Novak Djokovic plays tennis for a living. And the 35-year-old Serbian has won 22 Grand Slam titles, a feat accomplished by only one other player, Rafael Nadal — so he’s pretty good.
But the administration of President Joe Biden has forbidden Djokovic from coming to the United States to play, saying that the fact that he refuses to be vaccinated against COVID makes him a deadly risk.
Djokovic has long been reticent to take the vaccine, and at first, it seemed a bit petty. There was a deadly pandemic, and most people felt a sense of society when they bit the bullet and took the jab.
But now, with world-class athletes seemingly dropping dead all around the world, Djokovic’s recalcitrance appears to have been correct. And besides, his body, his choice. He didn’t want to put an odd substance into his highly honed athletic body, so he just didn’t.
He’s not against vaccines, he said in 2020, but he does oppose forced vaccination. “The principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else,” he said.
But in late 2021, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) decided he couldn’t play in the Australian Open, a major that he won the year before. A short time later, Djokovic lost the No. 1 ranking that he had held for a record 373 weeks. And due to the U.S. government’s forced vaccination policy for non-U.S. citizens, Djokovic was banned from entering the United States to play in the 2022 U.S. Open, another major tournament he was the favorite to win.
That all seems ages ago now. Most Americans — and most of the world, too — have moved on, returning to normal life. The COVID pandemic has greatly waned, and for many who get the virus, it’s more like the flu nowadays.
Yet with nationwide vaccine mandates still in place for foreign travelers, Djokovic has been forced to pull out of the Indian Wells tournament in California. His request for a waiver to enter the U.S. without a vaccine was rejected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He was supposed to play in the Miami Open the following week, but his participation in the tournament is up in the air, too.
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All this while the pandemic is “over.” That’s not us saying that — it was Biden.
Last September, Biden declared: “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. It’s – but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it.”
Florida Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio last week urged the Biden administration to intervene so that Djokovic could get into the country to play. The pair wrote a letter to Biden saying Djokovic poses no danger to the public.
“Mr. Djokovic is a world-class athlete in peak physical condition who is not at high-risk of severe complications from COVID-19,” the duo says in the letter. “It seems both illogical and misaligned with the opinions of your own administration to not grant him the waiver he requests so that he may travel to the U.S. to compete in a professional event.”
“The lack of public health risk, along with the clear benefit of his participation in an event that will be a major driver of our local economies should make the decision before you simple and serve as a precedent for others in his position,” the letter continues, “while hopefully leading to the full reversal of this mandate for other foreign visitors who wish to legally travel to our great nation.”
Djokovic is, of course, a high-profile foreigner. But the U.S. Travel Association says, “America’s outdated vaccine policy for international visitors is an unforced error that is contributing to an $80 billion loss in foreign traveler spending.”
“Novak Djokovic is merely one of millions of travelers deterred from visiting the United States due to a well-intended but antiquated policy. It is well past time for the United States to join with its peers in Europe, Australia and elsewhere and remove pandemic vaccine requirements for our international guests,” the association said in a statement Monday.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.