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Nikola Vucevic, Boban Marjanovic defend deported Novak Djokovic

2022 Australian Open

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14: Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

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Australia deported Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic because a government official determined his presence at the Australian Open could incite civil unrest and resistance to coronavirus-related regulations. The deportation became final when a court upheld Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s authority to make the ruling (not the merits of his decision).

The controversy has sparked accusations of special treatment for Djokovic and accusations he was treated unfairly.

A few NBA players are taking sides.

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic:

Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic on Instagram:


Nets guard Patty Mills, who led Australia to a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, via NetsDaily:

“Yes. I won an Olympic medal and quarantined in a hotel by myself for two weeks,” Mills said of his own restrictions on return to Australia from Tokyo. “As much as a buzzkill as it was to [not] go home and celebrate with family and friends, I’ve done it.”
More importantly, I think my perspective of coming from a small community and a small place, especially an indigenous population where this kind of thing can run through a whole community and a generation very quickly,” Mills said. “So, I guess my understanding of doing your part to look after the community is important. One hundred percent.”

It’s fair to question whether Mills and other fully vaccinated Australian Olympians needed such long quarantines. Just because someone faced an overly burdensome restriction doesn’t mean others should, too.

Despite being unvaccinated, Djokovic was previously allowed into Australia because he recently recovered from coronavirus. His natural resistance made it highly unlikely he would contract or spread the disease while in the country for the tennis tournament. His entry followed conflicting rulings from different agencies amid public pressure to keep him out.

Djokovic’s travel form said he had not traveled two weeks before entering Australia. However, he had been to Spain in that period (after testing negative, he said). Djokovic blamed human error by the person who filled out the form and claimed no intent to deceive. He also apologized for doing a photoshoot after learning of his positive test in December.

But Djokovic’s prior travel, admittedly irresponsible behavior and choice not to get vaccinated didn’t do much to change the underlying health risk for his time in Australia. Again, because he recently recovered from coronavirus, he was highly unlikely to contract and spread the virus while there.

Ultimately, the case came down to what Djokovic has said and done about vaccination (not much) and how the immigration minister perceived the public would react to Djokovic’s presence. These are issues of free expression more than anything.

At a time the pandemic has exacerbated debates about freedom and public good, it’s easy to see how NBA players would be divided on the Djokovic controversy.