While Novak Djokovic planned how to win a record 21st tennis Grand Slam title, it almost certainly did not involve being locked up in a quarantine hotel used by the Australian government to detain refugees.
The world number one’s extraordinary detention in Melbourne this week, after Australia’s border force ordered his removal from the country, shows that even the world’s biggest sports icons are not immune to public health disorders against coronavirus.
Djokovic got stuck at the Park Hotel before his appeal on Monday after tournament organizers’ decision to grant him a medical release was criticized and his visa revoked, casting doubt on the defense of his Australian Open title.
The Serb, an opponent of vaccinations who has never revealed whether he got a Covid-19 stab, is one of the minority of influential athletes who express their concern about vaccination.
American basketball player Kyrie Irving’s refusal to be vaccinated led to his team, the Brooklyn Nets, initially blocking him from selection, while Aaron Rodgers, a star player in the National Football League, defended the right to “make choices for your body”.
Concerns have also been raised about vaccination figures in English professional football – 18 Premier League matches that were to take place over Christmas had to be postponed as the Covid outbreak exhausted the groups.
Tim Crow, a sports marketing expert, said it was a mistake to rate sports stars the same as members of the public, pointing out that athletes are accustomed to paying close attention to their medication and nutrition during normal hours, for example to to comply with doping. requirements.
“The mind of an athlete is completely different from that of a citizen,” he said. “It’s not surprising that many of them are super, super conscious of putting something in their body when they feel they do not know what the effect is going to be.”
Just as athletes became more outspoken on political and social issues, some entered the public debate on vaccines. But as Colin Kaepernick discovered in 2016 when he began to kneel while playing the American national anthem before NFL games, athletes can experience a strong setback against their views.
“We live in a world where we’re used to athletes taking a stand and having an opinion, but you can not have that on both sides,” Crow said. “They can not just take a stand when it suits them.”
But controversies surrounding high-profile figures like Djokovic who have spoken out refute evidence to suggest that the vast majority of athletes have been vaccinated, or are on the verge of doing so.
According to the Association of Tennis Professionals, the professional body, more than 95 percent of the top 100 men are vaccinated double. One person close to the organization said Australia’s stringent requirements motivated players to be stabbed to compete in the Grand Slam.
North American sports leagues have placed extremely high stakes rates. The National Hockey League in October announced an “incredible” success, with 99 percent of 700 players being vaccinated as full, while the Women’s National Basketball Association achieved the same rate in June.
Senior figures across sports argue that it is easier for leagues, club owners and players’ associations to work together in team sports to encourage athletes to be vaccinated, for example by coordinating group Zoom calls.
“Especially in the Olympic environment, in a team environment, I do not think there is much sympathy [for unvaccinated athletes], ”Said Michael Payne, former marketing director of the International Olympic Committee. Athletes at the upcoming Winter Olympics must be quarantined for three weeks upon arrival in Beijing if they have not been fully vaccinated.
However, tennis players are individuals who depend on the prize money to win matches, instead of drawing a guaranteed salary.
“There’s a big difference between a team sport and an individual sport,” said the chief medical officer at an American sports league. “[With] tennis you can afford to speak a little differently than to say in basketball, where there are going to be heavy consequences, or in football or in hockey.
The English Premier League, the most lucrative in Europe, said last month that 77 per cent of footballers from its 20 clubs had received two doses of vaccine. But the latest figures from the English Football League, which manages the three divisions below the top level, revealed that only 59 per cent of players were double-stabbed, while a quarter “currently do not intend to get a vaccine ”.
Simon Hallett, majority owner of Plymouth Argyle of the EFL, said the reason it was a challenge was because football is a “very traditional industry and people think in very old-fashioned ways”.
“It is attended by young men with a lot of time to hang out in changing rooms and share conspiracy theories. “It is disappointing that so many did not want to be vaccinated,” he said.
By comparison, more than 85 percent of soccer players in Spain’s La Liga have been vaccinated, according to a person close to the league, while almost all players in Italy’s Serie A have been vaccinated before the introduction of new rules from Monday that make vaccinations compulsory.
The experience of Djokovic, whose career prize money totals $ 154 million, suggests that vaccine unwillingness can have a significant impact on an athlete’s career, from stopping them from taking part in an overseas tournament to getting through ‘ to be recruited a top team.
Jürgen Klopp, manager of the English Premier League team Liverpool, which is recovering from coronavirus, warned last month that he would think twice about recording unvaccinated players, referring to health risks. “If a player is not vaccinated at all, he is a constant threat,” he said.