Tuesday's coronavirus roundup: Novak Djokovic may reconsider anti-vaccination stand
Belgrade, Serbia — Novak Djokovic has reiterated he is against taking an anti-coronavirus vaccination if it becomes mandatory to travel once the pandemic subsides, but says he’s open to changing his mind.
The top-ranked Djokovic said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, ’’Personally I am opposed to the vaccination against COVID-19 in order to be able to travel.
“But if it becomes compulsory, I will have to make a decision whether to do it or not. This is my current feeling, and I don’t know if it will change, but it really influences my profession.”
A vaccine hasn’t been made yet, but some such as Amelie Mauresmo have said the world tennis tours shouldn’t restart until there is one.
Djokovic caused a stir in a live Facebook chat with fellow Serb players on Sunday when he said that if a vaccination was compulsory when the tours resume then he “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone” to take it.
In his statement on Tuesday, Djokovic said many tennis players and other athletes have asked him for his opinion on this situation.
“I have expressed my views because I have the right to and I also feel responsible to highlight certain essential topics that are concerning the tennis world,” he said.
Djokovic and his wife Jelena advocate natural healing and not vaccinations, and said that like the rest of the world, he was “a bit confused.”
“I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body,” he said. “I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.”
Prominent Serbian epidemiologist Predrag Kon, a member of the state team fighting the spread of COVID-19, said Djokovic should not have made anti-vaccination statements because of his huge public influence in his native Balkan country.
Djokovic won the Australian Open in January for his 17th grand slam singles title, and the ATP suspended its tour in March because of the global virus outbreak.
Virus leads to USOPC cuts
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is bracing for cuts of up to 20% because of the coronavirus pandemic and warning that a cancellation of the Tokyo Games would be “devastating” to athletes and the organization.
The Associated Press received a copy of a letter CEO Sarah Hirshland sent to leaders across the U.S. Olympic world, in which she said cuts of 10 to 20% are “necessary to balance both the current delay in revenue and anticipated decline” that’s expected over coming years.
The letter was accompanied by a Q&A that dealt with the possibility that the Olympics, now scheduled to start a year late, in July 2021, could be canceled altogether if the coronavirus isn’t curtailed by then.
Though job cuts or pay reductions appear likely among the 500-person staff, many based at the headquarters in Colorado Springs, the Q&A said “we will look at broader program, services and personnel-related costs before we consider cuts or furloughs.”
Hirshland said decisions will be made by the end of May.
Most of the 50 USOPC-affiliated sports organizations were already hurting, and can also expect to see shortfalls in the amounts they receive from the federation in the form of grants and other funds that support athletes.
The USOPC’s budget runs on four-year cycles, and the biggest splash of money comes in during the year of a Summer Olympics, when TV payouts across the Olympic world are at their peak. The federation, for instance, brought in $195 million more in 2016 than in 2015 for total revenue of $336 million.
Should the Olympics go on as now planned, in 2021, the TV money will still arrive, but a year late. But the delay could have a negative impact on a marketing agreement the USOPC cut with organizers of the LA 2028 Olympics, which was supposed to start next year. Virtually all Olympic-style marketing deals set for 2021 will need to be altered while many that were set to expire in 2020 could be extended.
Meanwhile, a full cancellation of the games would throw the USOPC into uncharted territory. It could include having to tap into the $200 million U.S. Olympic Endowment, a fund borne out of the surplus from the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
Tennis tours seek virus fund
The men’s and women’s professional tennis tours say they will administer a player relief fund to help those in the sport dealing with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ATP and WTA say they are in discussions with the International Tennis Federation and the four Grand Slam tournaments but did not provide any specifics about how much money they are pooling or how it will be distributed.
They said they “look forward to finalizing and sharing the further details of a plan in due course.”
Pro tennis has been on hold since early March because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and no tournaments will be played before mid-July at the earliest.
The French Open postponed its start from May to September, and Wimbledon was canceled for the first time in 75 years.
South Korea’s professional baseball league has decided to begin its season on May 5.
The games will be played without fans until the risk of infection from the coronavirus is gone.
The league plans to maintain a 144-game regular-season schedule but has decided scrap its all-star game and shorten the first round of the playoffs from a best-of-five to best-of-three series.
The KBO says it could shorten the regular season if infections erupt. The league will advise players to wear face masks in locker rooms and require them to download smartphone apps to report their daily health status to league officials.