Five-time Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic let slip that he was an anti-vaxxer during a Facebook livestream on Sunday.
The professional tennis player from Serbia expressed concern in the midst of the global health crisis of players getting vaccinated before returning to compete.
He told fellow Serbian athletes:
"Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel."
Coronavirus: Novak Djokovic reveals he's an anti-vaxxer and it may stop his return to tennis https://t.co/v6VVM6CReD— Sky News (@Sky News)1587381305.0
Djokovic – who has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles and is the first Serbian male to be designated as No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) – asked his peers what would happen if vaccinations became compulsory.
"I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don't know."
"Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine and there is no vaccine yet."
The backlash against his vaccine-hesitant stance was swift.
@maggiemarks333 @SkyNews Those kids come into contact with immune compromised kids and infect them. That’s the hei… https://t.co/1BQhpqcAx0— Beth Goffe (@Beth Goffe)1587396212.0
@RollingStone That’s a double fault— Mitch Cumstein (@Mitch Cumstein)1587413551.0
Former fans felt let down.
@RollingStone Damnit, and I really liked him.— MrSeventy8 (@MrSeventy8)1587413716.0
@yashar There's always been something about him that didn't sit right with me. For one thing, the kind of hurtful i… https://t.co/zvvgc8qhNd— Melissa (@Melissa)1587393447.0
Last month, retired French professional player and former world no. 1 Amelie Mauresmo mentioned that the rest of the 2020 tennis season could be cancelled due to the raging pandemic and implied that players should get vaccinated against the virus before resuming with matches.
"International circuit = players of all nationalities plus management, spectators and people from the 4 corners of the world who bring these events to life. No vaccine = no tennis."
Former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo puts its succinctly: "No vaccine = no tennis." #coronavirus https://t.co/ZbeQSL4cE0— Rappler (@Rappler)1585928727.0
@yashar I doubt anyone would want to play someone who is not vaccinated...................— Enigma Jones (@Enigma Jones)1587389385.0
Anti-vaxxers are widely criticized for spreading their propaganda that vaccines contribute to autism and other illnesses, when in fact vaccinations have helped save millions of lives.
Many parents who claim that vaccinations are a major health risk refused to have their children inoculated with the MMR vaccine, which presumably helped exacerbate the numerous outbreaks of the measles last year.
According to ESPN, governing bodies of tennis have postponed tennis games until July 13, and the women's Rogers Cup in Montreal that was to take place in August will not be taking place this year due to the health crisis.