Hey Tennis, Your Sexism Is Showing

By Dani Mahrer | January 14, 2022
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We’re smack dab in the middle of the biggest surge of the covid pandemic, hospitals are overrun, and finding a rapid test is harder than landing a boyfriend these days, so naturally we have another news story about a rich, white, male athlete refusing to get vaccinated while the institution for which he plays does absolutely nothing about it. Step aside, Aaron Rodgers and the NFL, Novak Djokovic and Tennis Australia have out fuckery-ed you! Because in his quest to win his 21st (and record-breaking) major title in Australia and stand up for the rights of anti-vaxxers everywhere, the world’s top-ranked male tennis player has lied, cheated, pissed off an entire continent of people, and had his visa revoked twice!

At first, it seemed unlikely Djokovic would be able to compete in this first Grand Slam event of the tennis season—Australia has a vaccine mandate for visitors and citizens alike—and Djokovic has an “I do what I want and don’t care about anyone else’s well being” mandate, leaving him unvaccinated and unable to enter Australia. But just last week, Djokovic was granted a medical exemption due to a “recent positive covid diagnosis”. Apparently, Mr. Novaxx Djocovid tested positive for the virus in December—on the exact day he had to in order to complete quarantine and still make it to the tournament on time. Wow, not only does the man have impeccably timed serves, he also has impeccably timed covid results!  

After a failed attempt at canceling his visa and a short stay at an immigration detention facility where, horrifying side note: asylum seekers are being held (sometimes for years) under terrible conditions, he was allowed into the country and began training for the tournament earlier this week. But just this morning (truly the best news to wake up to), Australia’s Immigration Minister revoked his visa yet again, saying it was “in the public interest to do so.” If you are unfamiliar with Novak’s previous work as a terrible person, here’s an overview of why this man should be deported from Australia and public life in general: 

Novak Sucks

Not at tennis (he’s actually maddeningly good), but as a human. He’s done a lot of shitty things, including:

  • Organized a tennis tournament in 2020 when the main tennis tours were shut down due to the pandemic. Spoiler alert, it became a superspreader event!
  • Spoken out against equal pay for female athletes, and formed his own players union that excluded women—a safe space for sexist players to whine about equal pay, I assume. 
  • Has often thrown tantrums on and off the court including once slamming a line judge in the throat with a tennis ball. And, after losing the bronze medal match (and smashing a few rackets) at the Olympics last year, he bailed on his mixed-doubles match later that day, leaving his partner without a shot at a medal. Quick question on this one: Does Novak think the female player he stood up deserves to be paid as much as the male player that didn’t show up, or…?
  • When asked what he thought about Naomi Osaka being pressured into withdrawing from the French Open last year for opting out of press conferences, Novak said, “The Grand Slams are protecting themselves and their own business and they are going to follow the rules”. Funny, because “the rules” also require players to be vaccinated to participate in the Australian Open and yet, here we are. 

He Lied On His Visa Application And/Or Knowingly Exposed Multiple People To COVID-19 Before Traveling To Australia

While I’m not convinced he didn’t fabricate his positive covid result, for the sake of this point, let’s assume he did have covid on December 16th. If so, he violated Serbia’s isolation protocols and attended multiple events in the days that followed—one of which Novaxx himself confirmed he knew he had covid during—exposing a journalist and photographer to his entitled, sexist, virus-ridden particles. And if that isn’t enough to drive you straight out of the outback mad, his visa application stated that he hadn’t traveled internationally in the 14 days prior to entering Australia, even though he had been photographed in both Spain and Serbia. 

Now this is amateur shit right here—if you don’t want to get caught in a lie, don’t post about it on Instagram. Do I tell my friends I can’t make it because I don’t feel well when I actually just have something better to do that they weren’t invited to? Yes, absolutely. Do I post pictures of the better thing that I did? No, that would be wrong. 

84% Of Australians Called For Djokovic To Be Deported

Sounds like a supermajority to me—no filibuster, no electoral college, just facts. Give the people what they want. 

Djokovic and his lawyers are appealing the decision ahead of the tournament and I can only imagine their argument will be something like “Novak is a rich, powerful, white man and the rules have never applied to him, so why start now?”

But in all the drama surrounding this controversy, there has been very little said by or about the actual governing bodies of tennis. In fact, the official Australian Open social accounts have leaned heavily into promoting Djokovic’s race to 21 Grand Slam titles, and I haven’t once seen them address his less than human sportsmanlike behavior. But are we surprised? Absolutely not. 

The sport has always been quick to punish female players for their “unsportsmanlike” conduct while brushing off the same or worse behavior from male players as them just “blowing off steam”. From laying down fines and violations for arguing with chair umpires or changing shirts on the sidelines, to quite literally bullying a top contender out of a major tournament for daring to put her mental health first, they do not hesitate to remind women that they must follow the rules while simultaneously bending them for the men. I guess Djokovic’s men-only players union has done a great job of advocating for both unequal pay AND unequal treatment. 

Look, Djokovic is at fault here—he’s what I imagine would happen if you combined the athleticism and general white nationalist energy of Tom Brady, the total disregard for what’s right of the Republican Party, and the ego of Donald Trump, into one super lanky, despicable human. He’s awful. But he’s also just taking advantage of a system that has always, and seemingly will continue to, let him (and most male players) do whatever the fuck he wants. Public health, “the rules”, and fairness be damned. So let’s continue to drag Djokovic, yes, but may I suggest we consider taking the whole system down with him?

Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

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