Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 in the Association of Tennis Professionals’ roster, is no different from us. He’s a human being vulnerable to the coronavirus no matter how invincible he thinks he is.
For refusing to get himself vaccinated against Covid-19, Djokovic was sent home by the Australian government on Sunday after a couple of weeks trying to stave off deportation.
He could not enter Australia in the next three years while the world prays the pandemic ends within that stretch.
His sin was his refusal to submit to vaccination, and Djokovic is part of the one billion people who do not want to be vaccinated.
Yes, they’re that many.
A Gallup’s research on behalf of the Wellcome Global Monitor in 2018 showed people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states were among the least likely in the world to believe that vaccines, in general, are safe and effective.
That research was made before the pandemic, and it is likely that in 2020, not much has changed in the 43 percent average of non-vaccine believers that are the majority in the Commonwealth of Independent States and non-European Union-member countries in Europe.
Many countries in these two regions — including most of the Balkans — and former Soviet states dominate the list of places where people were the least willing to take coronavirus vaccines if they were available at no cost.
It was a surprise for Djokovic, who is from Serbia — a republic of seven million and formerly a part of Socialist Yugoslavia until its split with Montenegro in 2006 — to have become the face of anti-vaxxers as his country was the second-fastest country to initiate a vaccine rollout very early in 2021.
That swift action by Aleksandar Vučić of the populist Serbian Progressive Party should have encouraged a large part of those outside the 35 percent willing to get vaccinated in Serbia in 2018, but as we have seen with the Djokovic case last week, it apparently did not.
There are more athletes like Djokovic. The National Basketball Association, for one, has been trying to get its players vaccinated, except for a few who are holding on. In the end, the unvaccinated could only play in certain states that allow it.
Djokovic, said to be a believer of New Age ideas and the mystical, could lose the top ATP slot if he misses more tournaments after the Australian Open. His deportation, however, proves that no superstar is above anyone.
More than 80 percent of Australians said it so. They supported Djokovic being kicked out from their shores.
Above anything, it’s the majority’s safety that is paramount. The Australian government has proven that last week. The rest of the world can, too.
No superstars. No gods. No exemptions.