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Tennis

Novak Djokovic Gives Up The Game

Photo by SAVO PRELEVIC/AFP via Getty Images

Novak Djokovic sat down for a brief interview this week with the BBC, in which he addressed his decision not to take the COVID-19 vaccine, which recently cost him a chance at competing in the Australian Open. So let’s see what this big goof had to say.

Djokovic is not exactly expanding the Weirdo Athlete Explains Weirdo Vaccination Decision genre. All that stuff about personal choices, not being ideologically opposed to vaccines, and wanting to keep a close eye on anything that goes into his body is all the same pablum you’ve heard before from other athletes and noteworthy people in Djokovic’s position. There was, however, one moment in this interview that stuck out.

While getting chesty about the implied courageousness of his decision not to get vaccinated, Djokovic started talking about consequences. “I understand the consequences of my decision,” he said. “And one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, and I was prepared not to go. And I understand that not being vaccinated today, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments.”

Ooooh! Sorry, Novak, but I am pulling the penalty flag out of my pocket and flinging it dramatically into the air. There is a flag on the field!

One of the consequences of your decision was “not going to Australia,” you say? When you made the decision to become a big, brave anti-vaxxer, you became “prepared” to miss the first major tournament of the year? If I’m remembering things correctly, not only did you travel to Australia despite the country having a strict vaccine mandate, you also tried to validate your visa and finagle your way into the Australian Open by lying in court. And then your dad went out there and tried to turn you into a political prisoner.

This is the annoying thing about people like Djokovic. They have all gotten very good at telling us that they are not anti-vaccine zealots, but rather people who just want to be left alone to make their own decisions. It’s an effective rhetorical trick that disguises selfishness as nobility. The truth, as evidenced by Djokovic’s recent behavior in Australia, is not that he just wants to make his personal decisions and admirably shoulder the consequences of those decisions, but that he wants to be able to do whatever the hell he wants and not suffer any consequences whatsoever. More than that: He wants to reject social responsibility in his decision making, and to reject the consequences for having done so, and also to be regarded as Rosa Parks for having done so.

Djokovic is free to refuse the vaccine, just as the governments that run the countries in which he wishes to play tennis are free to deny him entry based on that decision. So far, only one of the aforementioned parties has respected the decisions of the other.