Novak Djokovic recently reiterated his reluctance to take the coronavirus vaccine and went on to confirm that he has no intention of getting vaccinated for the foreseeable future. While most of the debates these days surround his US Open participation, leading American MD Dr. Jonathan Reiner expressed that Djokovic has failed to set the right example since the start of the pandemic.
As things stand, the 21-time Grand Slam champion is not allowed to enter the United States as he is unvaccinated and will thus be unable to compete in the US Open. His US Open participation saga follows controversy in Melbourne at the start of the year. He was eventually deported from Australia before the Australian Open and after legal proceedings.
Reiner, who is a Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, believes the Serbian player should be allowed to enter the country for the US Open. However, he feels that the Serb has not lived up to his 'public responsibility' and has presented a selfish stance against vaccinations from the very beginning.
"When I look at someone like Djokovic, someone who has made hundreds of millions of dollars playing tennis, who has lived this incredibly fortunate life, I look at him to be some sort of a symbol of public responsibility," Dr. Reiner said during a chat with Patrick McEnroe on the Holding Court Podcast.
"Despite the fact that I do think he should play in the United States, I think he has totally failed to do that during the darkest point in this pandemic where he should’ve been really seen as an example, he has failed to do that. What he did in fact was display selfishness, that’s what it was like last winter, pure selfishness," he added.
Reiner further expressed that it is important for athletes to send across the right message as they have a lasting impact on fans and followers. When fans go to the US Open and support a player, they aim to find some inspiration from the player and apply a certain value within their lives.
On those lines, he believes leading public figures such as Djokovic are not sacrificing much by getting themselves vaccinated and wearing masks to protect not just themselves but also the community at large.
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"When I look to athletes, I look at them as people who sort of get to the public and to try and represent the best of us. When kids go to baseball games or they go to the US open and they’re rooting for a player...I look for a player to show me something that makes me want to reach higher levels in my life. Some demonstration of courage, or discipline, or sacrifice."
"I think during the pandemic wearing a mask in public has not been much of a sacrifice and just getting vaccinated to protect you and the community isn’t much of a sacrifice for yourself. But it is a statement for your commitment to your community," Reiner said on the same.
"It’s a bad take for Djokovic not to be vaccinated" - Dr. Jonathan Reiner
Reiner went on to explain that Novak Djokovic's reluctance to get vaccinated does not set a good example as the coronavirus vaccines are quite safe. Reiner admitted that the vaccines do not prevent transmission of the virus, making the US travel rules regarding the same irrelevant. But he believes that vaccines certainly protect individuals from falling extremely sick due to the coronavirus and prevent death.
According to the American, the Serbian tennis superstar's concerns are quite unwarranted and he should get vaccinated for his own safety as the threat from a virus is much higher than the threat any vaccine could pose.
"Look, I think it’s a bad take for Djokovic not to be vaccinated, I think it’s a bad example. I still think he should be vaccinated for his own protection, and his concerns about the safety of vaccines I think are unwarranted. The vaccines are extraordinarily safe and the risk to an athlete's health is much greater from the virus itself than it is from any potential vaccine."
"But having said all that, it seems like the United States policy, as implemented last October, has outgrown I think its usefulness to the public health," Reiner said further.
At Wimbledon and again in a recent statement, the 21-time Grand Slam champion said he hopes for a change in the regulations to allow him entry into the US, without which his US Open participation is impossible. Meanwhile, he is preparing and training on hardcourts to keep himself ready if he does eventually get to participate.