International sport is increasingly struggling with the duty to vaccinate. That puts skeptical stars like Novak Djokovic and Kyrie Irving ahead of the block.
At the Grand Tournament in Indian Wells, everyone entering the park this week must present a vaccination certificate: from cheerleader to referee and from reporter to popcorn seller. But such an obligation does not apply to the artists themselves, tennis players. And that’s good for the organization, because the vaccination rate among players is between 50 and 70 percent, according to players’ associations ATP and WTA.
Top 10 players Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, among others, are openly skeptical about the vaccine, though the former Greek announced recently that he will change his mind later this year “to be able to return to the restaurant and the shops”. Among the women, world champions Elena Svitolina and Arina Sabalenka are against vaccination, although the latter has contracted the virus and is also absent from Indian Wells. Many women are afraid of the long-term consequences of mRNA vaccines, for example when it comes to their desire to have children, says someone from tennis.
The situation for many unvaccinated tennis players is expected to change dramatically in 2022. The Australian Open, the first major tournament of the year in January, may come with a vaccination commitment for all present.
The organization is not in favor of it, if only because it might prevent skeptical Novak Djokovic from a trip to Melbourne. But Australian governments have been very strict since the outbreak of the pandemic and now do not want to make an exception for top athletes. However, there is still the possibility that unvaccinated tennis players will enter a “strict quarantine” two weeks before the start of the Australian Open. During the tournament they have hardly any freedom of movement and cannot train everywhere and at all times.
Djokovic continues to hunt for the record 21 major slams he has won after losing at the US Open last month. The Australian Open, which the Serb has won no fewer than eleven times, would like to provide the background for that. But Djokovic already said in April 2020 that he was not in favor of vaccination. After an ill-considered demonstration tournament, which he organized himself last year in the Balkan countries, many players and attendees, including himself, were injured. Even after that, Djokovic continued to speak out against the strict rules that the leagues apply regarding the virus.
Lamprey is also a divisive factor in other sports. In America, the NFL (American Football) and the National Basketball Association (Basketball) were in favor of a universal vaccination obligation, but player boards supported it. There are local rules. In New York and San Francisco, indoor sports are only allowed for people who have been vaccinated and this applies to everyone. Consequently, unprotected star player Keri Irving of the Brooklyn Nets is not allowed to play at his Barclays Center. Missing all home games in both cities in the regular competition could cost him €13.5 million in salary, unless Irving gets a first injection before the first home game of title candidate the Nets on October 24.
That’s why Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors of San Francisco gave up. He felt compelled to get the shot. “The only options were to be vaccinated or not to play in the NBA. It was a difficult decision, and I hope to be healthy in ten years. I hope there are many people stronger than me who will continue to fight and stand for what they believe in.”
Participants in the Winter Games in February are also forced to be vaccinated in one form or another. Otherwise, there will be three weeks of quarantine in Beijing, which probably no athlete will choose. Compulsory vaccination has been an option for a while, but the IOC didn’t want it. In this sense, this quarantine measure is really a kind of guideline.