The minister, Mick Gentleman, defended the rules. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)
Mick Gentleman, the health minister of Australia’s ACT government, has spoken out about the merits of mandatory vaccines to combat measles, as well as the annoyance at seeing three-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic hold up a paper during a news conference promoting a charity event.
In the event, Djokovic declined to answer questions about the upcoming Australian Open, citing the mandatory health requirements for all tournament players. Djokovic cited the reports in a tweet on Saturday, saying, “I appreciate the hosts, but still I can’t answer the question for health reasons.” Djokovic later added, “So much medical advice about measles and vaccines. I know all the reasons, but I’m here not to lobby for change. I’m here to promote a free clinic.”
It’s the latest example of many athlete speaking out against anti-vaccination sentiment, and of a seemingly growing backlash by sports figures. In a debate after the most recent World Anti-Doping Agency report revealed that cheaters are as widespread as ever in professional and Olympic sports, one British ice hockey player used an expletive to question whether vaccines cause autism and world-renowned golfer Phil Mickelson stated he was skeptical of the strength of the current vaccine against measles. Djokovic’s Twitter comment on the mandatory vaccination program emerged during the same week that he and tennis greats John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova all spoke out against Donald Trump, whose comments on vaccinations had left Djokovic particularly irked. As was the case for Djokovic, the issue in this instance involved a government-mandated vaccine, as well.
While he doesn’t fall on either side of the debate, Djokovic is not the only athlete offended by mandatory vaccinations. Several young tennis players were uninvited from events after public outcry over anti-vaccination sentiments. World Twenty20 champion Stiaan van Zyl also offered an off-court speech opposing vaccinations, something he said he did for the sake of his daughter, an undeveloped child.
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