Judges Reveal Reasons for Djokovic's Deportation

They backed idea that 'he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2022 10:25 AM CST
Judges Reveal Reasons for Djokovic's Deportation
Recently deported from Australia for not being vaccinated against COVID-19, Novak Djokovic prepares to take his seat on a plane to Belgrade, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)

Amid uproar in Serbia, the three Australian judges who allowed Novak Djokovic to be deported from the country on the eve of the Australian Open are now sharing their reasoning: Essentially, they backed the idea that the presence of the top-ranked men's tennis player, unvaccinated against COVID-19, would set a bad example. "The capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment," the federal judges said Thursday, explaining Sunday's decision to unanimously uphold Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's withdrawal of Djokovic's visa, per the Wall Street Journal.

"An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him," the judges continued. "This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence." Hawke had said the presence of a "talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment" could trigger "civil unrest," citing a Jan. 11 protest by Djokovic's supporters, per the Guardian. The judges cited statements Djokovic had made, expressing his opposition to being vaccinated, to back up their ruling. However, an attorney for Djokovic, who'd tried to skirt vaccination rules for travelers to the country by citing a prior COVID-19 infection, said the tennis star's deportation could just as easily fuel anti-vaccine sentiment.

On Wednesday, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic added that she doesn't see Djokovic as an as anti-vaxxer, as he believes in individual choice, per CNN. Ivan Loncarevic, CEO of Danish biotech firm QuantBioRes, said the same, per the Guardian, as Reuters revealed Djokovic and his wife, Jelena, together hold a 80% stake in the company that's aiming to develop a peptide to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from infecting human cells. Clinical trials on the treatment are to begin this summer, Loncarevic tells Reuters. This whole controversy could play out again as, under current rules, Djokovic will be unable to defend his title at May's French Open unless he is vaccinated. (More Novak Djokovic stories.)

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