Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic will not compete at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California because he has not received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Djokovic is a highly decorated athlete who has been denied a spot in several international competitions over the last two years because of his vaccination status.
The Biden administration denied Djokovic’s vaccine waiver application in January. He withdrew from the competition on March 5.
The 35-year-old is a 22-time Grand Slam Champion and is currently ranked No. 1 in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals. Djokovic was deported from Australia in January of 2022 after initially being allowed to enter the country despite its COVID-19 vaccination requirement. After a public back-and-forth in the days before the Australian Open was set to begin, the national government announced Djokovic would not be able to compete.
“What people probably don’t know is that I was not deported from Australia on the basis that I was not vaccinated, or I broke any rules or that I made an error in my visa declaration,” Djokovic said, per AP News. “The reason why I was deported from Australia was because the minister for immigration used his discretional right to cancel my visa based on his perception that I might create some anti-vax sentiment in the country or in the city, which I completely disagree with.”
Djokovic then opted not to compete in the French Open rather than get vaccinated.
“I was never against vaccination but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body,” he told reporters in February 2022. “Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else … I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can.”
Djokovic was also denied entry to the US Open in New York in August of 2022 because of his vaccination status.
“Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government’s vaccination policy for non-U.S.citizens,” Stacey Allaster, the director of the US Open, said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open.”
Senator Rick Scott of Florida tweeted on March 3 that the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to deny the tennis player’s vaccination waiver request will also prevent him from competing at the Miami Open, which begins on March 18.
Scott called on President Joe Biden to “fix this NOW, grant the waiver & allow him to compete here in the states.”
In a letter to Biden, Scott wrote that the president said the pandemic was over during a September interview and that Dr. Anthony Fauci has published articles acknowledging the “limited efficacy of vaccines in protecting against respiratory pathogens, like the novel coronavirus.”
“In light of these changing circumstances, and admissions by you and members of your own administration, the current restrictive vaccine mandate which you have maintained for international travelers entering the United States seems outdated and worthy of recession,” the senator wrote.
“Mr. Djokovic is a world-class athlete in peak physical condition who is not at high-risk of severe complications from COVID-19,” continued Scott. “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 compete in a professional event.”
The BNP Paribas Open begins on March 8 and ends on March 19.