The federal government is coming under fire from all sides for denying tennis star Novak Djokovic entry to the U.S. over his vaccine status.
The 35-year-old Serbian player—currently ranked No. 1 in the world—requested a vaccine waiver, which would have allowed him to enter the U.S. as an unvaccinated foreign traveler to compete in a tournament later this month, but the Department of Homeland Security denied it.
The move prompted Djokovic, who's already had COVID, to withdraw from the Indian Wells tournament in California set to begin Wednesday through March 19.
In a joint letter, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida called on President Biden to grant the waiver request to compete in the Miami Open, which will take place March 19-April 2.
🚨 BREAKING: We have been told that @DHSgov just denied @DjokerNole's vaccine waiver request, making him ineligible to compete in the US next week in CA & in the @MiamiOpen. @JoeBiden must fix this NOW, grant the waiver & allow him to compete here in the states. https://t.co/TSD10yM8u6— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) March 3, 2023
In September 2022, you plainly declared to a national audience on 60 Minutes that “the [COVID-19] pandemic is over,” and, earlier this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci published a professional article acknowledging the limited efficacy of vaccines in protecting against respiratory pathogens, like the novel coronavirus. In light of these changing circumstances, and admissions by you and members of your own administration, the current restrictive vaccine mandate which you have maintained for international travelers entering the United States seems outdated and worthy of rescission.
Mr. Djokovic is a world-class athlete in peak physical condition who is not at high-risk of severe complications from COVID-19. It seems both illogical and misaligned with the opinions of your own administration to not grant him the waiver he requests so that he may travel to the U.S. to compete in a professional event. The lack of public health risk, along with the clear benefit of his participation in an event that will be a major driver for our local economies should make the decision before you simple and serve as a precedent for others in his position, while hopefully leading to the full reversal of this mandate for other foreign visitors who wish to legally travel to our great nation.
Criticizing the administration's position, comedian Bill Maher said the U.S. "is stuck on stupid."
Many others joined in, ripping the Biden administration over the policy.
Literally the healthiest male on the planet…Novak Djokovic…is denied entry into the U.S. due to vaccination status. Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/vKbkQZ4xPW— Liz Churchill (@liz_churchill8) March 4, 2023
Help me understand why Biden’s STILL-UNCONSTITUTIONAL VACCINE MANDATE is keeping Novak Djokovic from playing here NOW, 3 YEARS LATER?— James Bradley (@JamesBradleyCA) March 6, 2023
Over 2.7 million undocumented people entered the United States via the southern border in 2022.— OutKick (@Outkick) February 22, 2023
Yet, in February 2023, Novak Djokovic can't enter the country to play tennis because he made the decision to not get vaccinated.
None of it makes sense.https://t.co/Qad63ha9SD
Even the U.S. Open weighed in, expressing hope that the U.S. will let "one of the greatest champions our sport has ever seen" compete.
Novak Djokovic is one the greatest champions our sport has ever seen. The USTA and US Open are hopeful that Novak is successful in his petition to enter the country, and that the fans will be able to see him back in action at Indian Wells and Miami.— US Open Tennis (@usopen) March 3, 2023