Jack Todd: Deported Djokovic got what he deserved

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Jack Todd: Deported Djokovic got what he deserved
© Provided by The Gazette Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2022.

It was all so screamingly unnecessary.

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The hearings, the drama, the lies, the detention, the international clamor.

Not one bit of this needed to happen. All it required was that at any point in the past year, Novak Djokovic cast his medieval superstitions aside, act like an adult — and get vaccinated.

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Yes, Tennis Australia, in its embarrassing eagerness to have Djokovic play, vaccinated or not, played a role.

Yes, the Australian government and the government of Victoria handed Djokovic the tiniest of loopholes, which he chose to exploit.

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Yes, Australian Border Security was as heavy-handed as American ICE agents in its handling of Djokovic and Czech doubles player Renata Voracova, who was detained, forced to strip and deported after she had been admitted to Australia, even though she had done nothing wrong.

But it still boiled down to Djokovic, an athlete who thought he was bigger than the law , bigger than Australia, so big that his entitlement made it possible for him to bend entire nations to his will.

In doing so, he became an international hero to the thoroughly addled anti-vax movement, one more reason for them to put selfishness above safety, to go on making it so difficult to end this thing in the face of all reason, all statistics, all responsible scientific opinion.

The collateral damage rippled in every direction, tainting the Australian Open, the ATP, the Australian government, the game of tennis, the nation of Serbia and, above all, Djokovic himself. If there was ever a possibility that Djokovic would be as revered as Rafa Nadal or Roger Federer, that opportunity is gone forever.

Now Djokovic could win 30 majors and it wouldn’t matter.

Even Canadian Vasek Pospisil, that humble Canadian dude we used to like, managed to scuttle his own reputation with his outspoken defence of Djokovic.

It will be interesting to see if any of Djokovic’s sponsors abandon ship in the face of a tsunami of bad publicity. Ultimately, the sponsors have more power over the cheats and brats of the sports world than anyone. It was Nike that finally pulled the plug on Lance Armstrong and forced him to admit that he had been a cheat all along.

Adidas was Djokovic’s shoe sponsor until 2017. In 2018, he signed with Asics for a reported $4 million US a year, then resigned last year for an undisclosed amount. He’s paid a reported $7.5 million a year by Head racquets $9.4 million a year by Lacoste, more from Hublot, Peugeot, the Ultimate Kronos Group and the Raiffesein Bank. A 2021 story in Sports Mint put his annual income from sponsorships alone at $25.9 million US from 12 brands across eight different industries.

Sponsorships depend on public reaction and you wonder how tennis fans will react. They aren’t NASCAR fans. Tennis folk tend to be educated and affluent, which is part of the reason Djokovic is so wealthy. But educated people also tend to be vaccinated and they understand what’s at play here.

The simplest solution, given Djokovic’s greed, may be for Pfizer to sign him to yet another sponsorship and watch him change his tune in a heartbeat.

Whatever, there clearly needs to be some clarity in the rules for admitting international sports stars to other countries in the midst of a pandemic. It has to be simple: Obey the rules of the country you wish to visit or stay home.

“All this could have been avoided, like we’ve all done, by getting vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to come here in Australia,” said two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza. “Everybody knew very clearly the rules. You just have to follow them and that’s it. I don’t think it’s that difficult.”

Tennis coach and commentator Darren Cahill got it as well as anyone. “Fault lies everywhere here,” Cahill said. “It’s been a mess. Novak, Tennis Australia, the Victoria Government, the Federal Government. It should’ve been a hard rule entering this country considering what the folks have been thru. Get vaccinated and come play … or if not maybe see you in ’23.”

You would hope that other nations and other federations get the message. French sports minister Roxane Maracineanu has already said that French rules would allow Djokovic to play at the French Open beginning in May even if he is not vaccinated, so long as he obeys International Tennis Federation protocols.

That may change, with French President Emmanuel Macron taking a hard line on the unvaccinated and France racking up well over 300,000 cases a day since Omicron took hold. Beyond Roland Garros, the UK and the US have both suffered greatly from the COVID-19 virus. A crackdown might put Djokovic’s participation at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in jeopardy.

Again, there is a simple solution: A couple of painless jabs. A degree of immunity. An example to the world.

Related

  • Djokovic flies out of Australia after losing court appeal
  • Jack Todd: Novak Djokovic is behaving like a spoiled brat

Heroes: Rafael Nadal, Garbiñe Muguruza, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Leylah Fernandez, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Josh Allen, Shuai Peng, &&&& last but not least, Andy Murray.

Zeros: Novak Djokovic, Vasek Pospisil, Nick Kyrgios, Aaron Rodgers, Kyrie Irving, Bill Belichick, Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria. Now and forever.

@jacktodd46

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