DeSantis calls for Biden to let Djokovic compete in US despite vaccination status

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) called on President Biden to allow Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic to compete in the Miami Open despite him being unvaccinated for COVID-19.

DeSantis sent a letter to Biden on Tuesday demanding that he exempt Djokovic — who is 22-time Grand Slam winner — from the United States’ vaccination policy, which states that noncitizens who are not immigrants and traveling to the U.S. by air must be vaccinated. He said that the only thing keeping Djokovic from playing is Biden’s “misguided, unscientific and out-of-date” vaccination policy.

“It has been reported that Novak Djokovic has formally applied and been denied permission from your administration to enter the United States so that he may compete at the upcoming Miami Open tennis tournament,” DeSantis wrote in the letter. “This denial is unfair, unscientific and unacceptable. It’s time to put pandemic politics aside and give the American people what they want — let him play.”

The Florida governor also questioned the president on whether Djokovic could enter the United States by boat because the current policy only covers air travel. He told Biden to confirm with him no later than Friday if the tennis player could enter the country via boat.

In the letter, DeSantis also pointed to migrants seeking passage to the United States through the southern border. Immigrants are not required under the proclamation amended in 2022 to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Furthermore, even as you enacted the Proclamation on air travel that remains in force to this day, your administration pointedly allowed thousands of unvaccinated migrants to enter our country through the southern border,” he wrote.

DeSantis has been a strong opponent of vaccine mandates in his state of Florida. In January, he announced an initiative to ban COVID-19 related mandates in the state, and last year, he called for a grand jury investigation into alleged “crimes and wrongdoing” of COVID vaccines.

Djokovic was able to play in the Australian Open this in January, just one year after he was deported from the country due to his vaccination status. He did not participate in the U.S. Open last year due to being unvaccinated.

“Mr. Djokovic is an extraordinary tennis player who should have every right to compete
in this year’s Miami Open, which will commence on March 20,” DeSantis concluded. “I respectfully ask you to grant his requested exemption so that he may delight and inspire tennis fans in Florida and around the Nation.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

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