- The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

OPINION:

Days before the Australian Open, the first of each year’s four Grand Slam tennis events, the Australian government decided to kick Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, out of the country. Government officials were worried that his refusal to get vaccinated may turn the Australian people against their asinine “Zero-COVID-19” policy.

Stephen Lloyd, arguing on behalf of the Australian government before a three-judge panel tasked with either upholding or canceling Mr. Djokovic’s visa, stated the government had reason to be concerned about the influence of a “high-profile unvaccinated individual,” on Australians — and worried that the country’s people may emulate his “irresponsible behavior” if he were allowed to stay.


The tennis star’s “connection to a cause whether he wants it or not is still present,” Mr. Lloyd stated. “His presence in Australia was seen to pose an overwhelming risk,” motivating Australia’s immigration minister to want to expel Mr. Djokovic, he added.

The court ruled with the state, and Mr. Djokovic — who was aiming to notch a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, ranking him ahead of tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — was deported back to Serbia.

Throwing out or imprisoning those who government officials fear will turn public sentiment against them is what dictatorships, not representative democracies, do.

Mr. Djokovic’s case had the Australian government unified to make an example out of him because their “Zero-COVID-19” policy has been a colossal failure — and the Australian people know it.

The country employed regular lockdowns. Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city and the site of the Australian Open, was in lockdown for more than 260 days. The only way out of the lockdowns was for cities to reach vaccination thresholds among their populations. Mask mandates and bans on singing and dancing at outside venues was strictly enforced by the military.

Residents returning to the country from international travel were required to stay in internment camps for 14 days to be tested and make sure they weren’t bringing the virus home with them. Frequent images from social media and news reports show Australians who didn’t comply with these measures being beaten by law enforcement, which set up neighborhood checkpoints to make sure the government’s edicts were being enforced.

Massive protests followed — more than 84,000 people tuned into Mr. Djokovic’s hearing, and while going through the ordeal, many Australians gathered around Melbourne’s Park Hotel — a dirty, bug-infested immigration detention residence, where Mr. Djokovic was imprisoned by government authorities — rooting him on.

This is because, despite all of Australia’s draconian measures, COVID-19 cases have risen from around 1,000 a day to more than 100,000 a day in just over a month. Nothing can stop the spread of omicron, not government bureaucrats or those vaccinated.

What’s most displeasing about Mr. Djokovic’s eviction, is he had contracted COVID-19 weeks earlier and had recovered from the virus, acquiring natural antibodies, which many scientists argue is even better than the vaccination. That, and he’s a world-class athlete, famous for his strict training regime and impeccable diet. He has never spoken out against others getting vaccinated, only saying he himself was “opposed to vaccination,” and “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.”

His entire philosophy was privacy around health care choices — until the Australian government decided to make a martyr out of him.

To be sure, Mr. Djokovic’s battle isn’t done. He could now be barred from the French Open in May, under a new law meant to exclude the unvaccinated from stadiums and other public places. Christophe Castaner, a member of the French Parliament said on Monday the new law would also apply to anyone who wants to play in the next leg of tennis’s Grand Slam.

If you think the U.S. may be immune to this international clown show, think again.

The New York Times went out of their way to smear Mr. Djokovic on Sunday’s front page, calling him a “spiritual dabbler” (which is “troubling”), hinting at his being a “Serbian nationalist,” and saying he’d become an “international pariah” for refusing to get the jab.

They considered the entire Australian affair a pure “embarrassment,” where Mr. Djokovic “had the temerity to show up unvaccinated,” to Australia, which is presumably battling the omicron virus honorably.

It honestly was amazing to see “the paper of record,” focus on the travel eligibility of a single person while cheering on open borders here in the U.S. and a myriad of benefits for those who illegally cross regardless of their vaccination or COVID-19 status.

But that’s not America’s state line — is it? It’s going after the dirty, unvaccinated Americans, ignoring the southern border and pushing President Biden’s unconstitutional private employer vaccination mandate, all in the name of “public safety.”

This makes me think, is the U.S. not too unlike Australia?

Stand strong, Mr. Djokovic. You may soon teach us a lesson in health care freedom and privacy as well.

• Kelly Sadler is the commentary editor at The Washington Times.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.


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