Novak Djokovic at risk of becoming sporting pariah over vaccination stance

Arrogance, ego, vanity or something else entirely? Regardless of how you judge Novak Djokovic’s vaccine stance, we should believe it’s based on principle, writes Emma Greenwood.

It seems some of the world’s best tennis players may give Grace Tame a run for her money in the side-eye department.

Novak Djokovic has spoken out about the hurt he felt at “those looks from my colleagues and people that were in the tennis facility” between his two court hearings in January as he battled to stay in Australia despite arriving in the country unvaccinated ahead of the Australian Open.

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Is it arrogance, ego, vanity? Or are we to accept that the man who somehow believed he did not have to follow the same guidelines as every other player entering the country honestly thought there would be no reaction from peers who stuck to the rules.

And here, it seems, is the Djokovic conundrum.

He wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Novak Djokovic says he was 'hurt' by the reaction to his bizarre vaccine stance and attempt to bypass Australia's laws.
Novak Djokovic says he was 'hurt' by the reaction to his bizarre vaccine stance and attempt to bypass Australia's laws.

Djokovic says he is willing to stand by his anti-vax … sorry, he’s made it clear he’s not an anti-vaxxer … stand by his right to decide what he puts into his body, and not become vaccinated. Even if it costs him the chance to win grand slam titles.

He was unable to play at the Australian Open and Rafael Nadal’s eventual win took him past both Djokovic and Roger Federer in the major title tally, at 21.

He may be unable to play at the French or US Open and says that’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make to ensure he is able to be free to decide what goes into his body.

But if that was really the case, he’d make his choice, stand his ground and shut his mouth.

Disparaging colleagues, many of whom had at least expressed initial doubts about the vaccine before agreeing to be vaccinated – realising their livelihoods as travelling professionals would rely on getting the jab – only underlines the view that Djokovic believes he is somehow immune to regulations that others have to follow.

When he reportedly had Covid in December, Djokovic was photographed at events alongside children without wearing a mask and seemingly oblivious to any social distancing or other health measures.

He also attended a prearranged interview knowing he was Covid positive.

These are not issues about vaccination. They are deliberate choices.

It smacks more of arrogance than principle.

That he is willing to risk his shot at become the most decorated player of all time to follow his beliefs will be seen by some as noble.

It will also exacerbate the paranoia of many and fuel the conspiracy theorists who are already retarding the messages of health officials.

It’s exactly why Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his discretionary power to deport the Serbian.

Instead of being a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment” in Australia, Djokovic is now a poster boy for anti-vaxxers around the world – regardless of whether he wants that tag himself or not.

Fewer trophies may by the price Djokovic is willing to pay but if he does himself out of the race for the GOAT, it won’t be because Federer or Nadal lie ahead of him on the major title tally.

Being the greatest is about more than just being able to hit a ball well.

Djokovic is at risk of becoming a pariah.

Originally published as Novak Djokovic at risk of becoming sporting pariah over vaccination stance