Australian government officials have admitted that the decision to boot tennis star Novak Djokovic out of the country was based on fears that allowing him to stay would’ve damaged the government’s police powers acquired throughout the coronavirus.
According to The New York Times, “[I]n a statement explaining why he revoked Djokovic’s visa a second time, Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for immigration, argued that if Djokovic were allowed to remain in Australia and play, the influential tennis star could harm efforts to combat the virus,” with the government conceding “that Djokovic poses no imminent threat to spread the disease” and the situation is “more about the example it would set by allowing him to stay.”
“Given Mr. Djokovic’s high-profile status and position as a role model in the sporting and broader community,” Hawke said in a statement, “his ongoing presence in Australia may foster similar disregard for the precautionary requirements following receipt of a positive Covid-19 test in Australia.”
Stephen Lloyd, who argued for the federal government against Djokovic in court, echoed similar sentiments, saying the dilemma went beyond the issue of vaccination status and that the government was “worried that Australians would emulate his disregard for the standard rules of Covid safety if he were allowed to stay.”
“His connection to a cause whether he wants it or not is still present,” he said. “And his presence in Australia was seen to pose an overwhelming risk, and that’s what motivated the minister.”
Djokovic was officially deported from Australia on Sunday following a court ruling that upheld the government’s decision to cancel his visa, effectively barring the tennis star from competing for his 10th Australian Open title. While the country’s current immigration laws prohibit Djokovic from applying for a new visa for approximately three years, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who supported Djokovic’s deportation, has left open the possibility that the ban could be waived at some point in the future.
“[The ban] does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for them to return in the right circumstances and that would be considered at the time,” he said during a radio interview.