Update: This was written prior to the escalation of events with the Australian Government escalating things by cancelling his visa. That update is now on the Djokovic PR story page, while this page will focus on the overall story of Djokovic and his image. Both pages will be updated after the events of the Australian open reach a conclusion.
Should you could call the Djokovic medical exemption a fiasco, or pure genius? I saw an online comment: “It’s a dark, dark day for the sport.”
But I have come to see it as a classic tragedy:
- Why The Fuss? What is this all about?
- Dark, Dark Days: Or Are They?
- Classic Tragedy: Djokovic’s role in his downfall.
- Act II: Visa Cancelled
- Visa Cancelled
- Sydney Or Adelaide?
- Act III: Visa reinstated?
- It does look likely!
- The Age Of Outrage.
- Truth Is Not The Only Casualty.
- What About People: Personal consequences..
Why The Fuss?
What is all this about?
In case you missed it. The fuss is that Novak Djokovic, the world number 1 tennis player received a late medical exemption to play the Australian Open tennis tournament without following the normal procedures which include mandatory vaccination. The tournament is played in the Australian city that has had the worst experience in Australia during the pandemic, with many sacrifices. That Djokovic, who makes statement consistent with being an antivaxxer, had gained a medical exemption had generated outrage.
One suggestion is that Novak Djokovic can claim exemption one the basis he was infected just over 6 months ago. Djokovic tested positive by June 23rd 2021. While that infection should be just outside any window of being eligible to qualify for an exemption, perhaps there was some way the end date of the infection could have been stretch to include the deadline date. This would seem the same as counting a vaccination as occurring 2 weeks after the vaccination date, as that is when the vaccine is effective, yet no such window is applied to vaccinations. Further Australians require 2 doses of vaccine to count as vaccinated, even with a previous infection, and are urged to have a 3rd dose 4 months after their second dose. If the infection on June 23rd is counted, that would be a stretch.
Dark, Dark Days: Or Are They?
I saw the comment, “It’s a dark, dark day for the sport.”, on an online tennis forum: menstennisforums.
While many, and perhaps most, on the site feel outraged, that web site has had an incredibly active time since the announcement. I suspect forum activity is at one of the highest levels ever.
Apparently it was Oscar Wilde who wrote:
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Certainly Djokovic has achieved being talked about.
But is this good for tennis, or bad for tennis? It certainly gets tennis into the news. Probably it will create more interest in whether Djokovic does well at the Australian Open.
While those outraged by Djokovic getting the exemption could show the disapproval by boycotting his games, that result in a stadium full of antivaxxers, and those on the other side of the divide all cheering for Djokovic. Perhaps it is better for those who are outraged to attend and cheer for the opponent.
Either way, there will likely be many very passionate people all attending Djokovic matches. For selling tickets, the whole affair will very likely be a great success, Covid-19 permitting.
A Classic Tragedy: Djokovic’s role in his own downfall.
In the classic tragedy, the hero plays a role in their own demise. The Djokovic narrative fits this perfectly.
Djokovic is a phenomenal tennis player, and many believe him to the the best there has ever been. However for some reason, Djokovic has never enjoyed the same universal appeal as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. I believe that reason, is that as we are now in the age of polarization and outrage, and this means fans become not only divided into those who follow Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, but polarised into not liking the others. I suggest this leaves Djokovic wondering why he has not enjoyed the support of the previous 2 number #1 tennis players. Is it something he has done wrong? How can he fix this problem.
The media, lead by the AI of social media doing it first, has discovered that fuelling outrage is the most effective way to get views and engagement, and ever since the beginning of “propaganda” is has been known that media can shape how people feel.
Djokovic has been a victim of polarization, as his rise to number #1 came when polarization was already at a level that meant those who supported previous #1 players would be polarized and divided.
With polarized people then divided into those supporting Djokovic and now negative on Nadal or Federer, and those supporting Nadal or Federer but negative to Djokovic.
Instead of getting some support from the majority of tennis fans as Federer was able to do, things have changed and now only there is division, with polarization meaning many will be “against” a player.
Djokovic has suffered compared to Federer, and even Nadal, due to “our times” and this may have driven him to some questionable choices.
Triggering his own problem.
Djokovic has a reputation of having some crazy ideas.
Djokovic pushed for health status to be secret, expressing concern that whether he is vaccinated or not should be a private matter. The process of exemptions for the Australian open was designed to respect such privacy, and the process for exemptions was made secret. This meant that if a player was exempt because of a medical condition or reaction to previous vaccination, any underlying medical condition would remain private.
But then, when Djokovic had his grounds for exemption excepted, he told the world he had one. Sharing what is happening on social media gets likes!
He wanted it secret, but could not stop himself, and it looked like an “up yours”, even though it was probably just him being him.
ACT II: Visa Cancelled.
Visa Cancelled On Arrival.
When I wrote this page it was an interesting drama, followed mostly only by those who follow tennis. It became front page news when Australia cancelled Djokovic’s visa. Everything is now up in the air, and legal appeals are in place.
How Did Others Arrive Without problems?
Other people with execptions had already arrived queityly the other players did not announce they had an exemption, or create suspense of a “will they or won’t they” story. I suspect Djokovic did not realise what he was creating suspense, but with a cancelled appearance at the ATP cup on Jan 2nd that he had only weeks earlier stated he would play, and cryptic comments to his ATP cup teammates, the “will he, or won’t he” questions just go louder and louder.
The, the way Djokovic created an impression he was saying “up yours, I gamed the system” by declaring he had an exemption, created such outrage, that officials started looking for any technical breach that would previously have just been let pass.
I don’t think Djokovic meant to be saying “up yours”, but it looked that way.
Finding a technical breach was probably not that difficult. When examining web sites on the rules for people entering Australia, it read to me as there different answers on different web sites.
Depending on what state you enter, given the very different rules in those different states, it is likely the border security people would interpret rules consistent with that state.
But the rules just look like a mess where you can find a breach if you look because they different from site to site.
The Sydney Or Adelaide Tournament? (now possibly academic)
Djokovic will arrive in If Djokovic does managed to get into Australia at least one week before the Australian open, meaning he would be in time to earn a wild card at either of a lead up event in Sydney or in Adelaide. An interesting question for organisers, do you absorb the backlash from offering Djokovic a “wild card” in return for additional ticket sales?
Djokovic may not wish to play, as does he risk the travel to an extra city, if he is not vaccinated? Sydney currently has one of the daily highest case rates in the world per capita, which has to make it quite a risk.
Act III: Visa reinstated
Yes, it does appear political.
I had a quick look at the legality of the visa cancellation, and it looks questionable.
Djokovic’s legal representation is claiming cancelling his visa was unfair and unreasonable.
On the face of it, unless Djokovic either committed to providing documentation on arrival that he did not provide, or providing information that was misleading or false, they should win there case.
He was granted a visa. If granted a visa and complying with all requirements for that visa, then unless the visa was obtained by fraudulent claims or actions, the visa is valid.
This could turn out to be egg on the face of those who took politically motivated steps. To deport him, they could need new legislation, and they would be unlikely to get that in the circumstances.
Of course, it is also possible that Djokovic did obtain the visa on condition of validation of something, but normally you would not get the visa first and then be asked questions late, but rather, the visa would be granted on arrival upon presentation of the information. This leaves data that was supplied being determined to be false. Possible, but it doesn’t look like it.
To me it would seem if he is then allowed entry and the visa reinstated, it would be best to enter the Sydney or Adelaide tournaments to test reaction before going straight into a slam.
Just to be clear, it is not that I support Djokovic, or him being granted an exemption, just that legally, this visa cancellation looks like it is on thin ice.
The Age Of Outrage:
Truth Is Not The Only Casualty.
Social media has proven that trillions of dollars can be made by encouraging outrage and polarisation. This has already furthered fake news, which gets far more views than real news.
There have also been trends such as staging videos of accidents for social media. The whole Djokovic affair suggests that outrageous and polarising behaviour is another potential consequence of this age of outrage. An expectation of cohesive behaviour may be another casualty.
Be What About People: Personal consequences.
A problem for Djokovic, is that he is not a person who exists only in the online world. A tennis crowd is not like a political rally where only your supporters arrive. Often there are several matches to a session on a court, so not only are some there primarily to watch your opponent, others are there because they simply want to be entertained and have no specific allegiance in your match to you or your opponent. Much of the crowd has to be won over!
Djokovic is the type of player who seems to care what people think of him. It is quite possible that as things stand, he will be booed by the crowd at his next tournament.