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Unvaxxed Can Play at Wimbledon, but Not Russians

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

The CEO of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club which hosts the Wimbledon Tennis Championships announced that the club will not require players to have received the COVID-19 jab as a condition to compete in the tournament as there is no shot requirement to enter Britain.  This means that No. 1 ranked Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend his Wimbledon title.

The Serbian Djokovic, 34, was disqualified from playing in the Australian Open in January due to his not being vaccinated against the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. He appealed this decision and was sent to wait in a quarantine hotel in a Melbourne suburb for four days before he was deported from that country.  Djokovic claims he has had COVID-19 twice and would not participate in other Grand Slam tournaments if getting vaccinated were a requirement to compete.

Djokovic — who has said he got COVID-19 twice, once each in 2020 and 2021 — owns 20 Grand Slam singles titles, tied with Roger Federer for the second-most for a man. They trail Rafael Nadal, who won his 21st at the Australian Open. Six of Djokovic’s trophies came at Wimbledon, including victories each of the past three times the tournament was held — in 2018, 2019 and 2021. It was not held in 2020 because of the pandemic.

However,  All England Club has barred Russian and Belarusian players from competing in this year’s tournament due to the ongoing conflict in that region.  In a statement during a news conference on Tuesday, All England Club CEO Sally Bolton said that it is the club’s “responsibility to play our part in limiting the possibility of Wimbledon being used to justify the harm being done to others by the Russian regime,” Chief Executive Sally Bolton said, “we believe that this decision is the only viable option for Wimbledon.”

Djokovic criticized the Club’s decision, saying he disagrees with the war but banning athletes from competing is crazy and unfair:

I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” he said at the ATP event in Belgrade. “I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. “In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans we have had many wars in recent history. However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with it (war). When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”

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Banning tennis players from competing in a tournament because of their country of origin is discrimination, and the actions of the government of a particular country shouldn’t overshadow the athletic desires and achievements of individual athletes from that country who simply want to play the sport for which they have trained for years. Politics and sports don’t mix.