Leagues and Governing Bodies

Djokovic could be allowed into French Open, but other tourneys in flux

Novak Djokovic likely to be refused entry to other tournaments this season if he does not meet vaccine requirements introduced across the worldGETTY IMAGES

French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said that Novak Djokovic "will be allowed to play in the French Open later this year even if he is not vaccinated against COVID-19," according to REUTERS. France "does not bar unvaccinated people from entering its territory" but imposes "tougher restrictions than on those who have had the shot" (REUTERS, 1/7). In London, Stuart Fraser notes Djokovic is "likely to be refused entry" to many other tournaments this season if he "does not meet the increasing number of Covid-19 vaccine requirements being introduced across the world." Although border rules differ from country to country, more tournaments are "set to demand that players must present a valid vaccination certificate to enter." It is understood that players have been told to "expect this rule to be in place" in the U.S. The "hardline stance" of French President Emmanuel Macron on those who are unvaccinated is "likely to result in similar arrangements at the French Open in May." While there will be some exemptions for those with valid medical reasons, there will "not be consistency in the criteria between different events," making it a "complex logistical minefield for unvaccinated players" (LONDON TIMES, 1/7).

LOSING SUPPORT:'s Peter Bodo writes Djokovic and his "epochal talent" have been "transformed into a widely detested symbol of arrogance and entitlement." He may "never feel support, much less love, again in Melbourne." Natives are in "no mood to embrace an athlete who has spoken out against vaccination, refused to get vaccinated himself, yet found a way -- enabled by prominent tennis officials -- to dodge the vaccination mandate." The Serbian star’s "refusal even to explain why he shuns vaccination, or to come clean about why he deserves a special exemption (besides the fact that he’s Novak Djokovic) has crossed a clear line in the sand" (, 1/7). In Melbourne, Darren Kane writes if Djokovic was not "utterly tone deaf," one suspects he and his "heaving entourage would have remained in sunny Belgrade for the northern hemisphere winter." How is it "not going to piss off a whole country when it appears as though you’d do anything to avoid compliance with that country’s laws." If Djokovic had the "ability to read the room," the "principle of transparency might be a prudent PR strategy" (Melbourne AGE, 1/7). Tennis Channel’s Paul Annacone said the issue surround Djokovic is a “bad thing for tennis.” Annacone: “That’s the pro and con of being an icon like Novak Djokovic. … You get bonuses and you also have some extra baggage to carry because you’re going to be under the microscope a little more” (“Tennis Channel Live,” Tennis Channel, 1/6). ESPN’s Patrick McEnroe said Djokovic has “been very coy about this situation throughout the last 18 months about his vaccination status” and “over the course of his career he spouted some rather bizarre medical theories of his own.” McEnroe noted when the Australian prime minister “steps into this situation as he did, this has become political dynamite in Australia.” Djokovic “has become a political pawn” (“GMA,” ABC, 1/7).

LOOKING FOR CLARITY: In DC, John Feinstein writes while Djokovic is the No. 1 men’s tennis player in the world, he is "also a punchline now, something few truly great athletes ever become." No one bought Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley’s claim that Djokovic "wasn’t being granted a special privilege." Tiley "refused to name the other players who received similar exemptions" and would "not explain why Djokovic’s was granted." Djokovic, who would be free to do so, "hasn’t given any explanation as to why he applied for an exemption" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/7). However, in Australia, Jacquelin Magnay writes it is "wrong to suggest that Djokovic came to Australia expecting special treatment," having "believed he had the paperwork in order." But what he and other foreigners expect is "clarity around Australia’s entry requirements," and certainly for any "unseemly mess to be handled well before getting on a plane" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/7).

SBJ Spotlight: TikTok’s threat to traditional sports media

While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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