DeSantis Urges Biden To Let Unvaccinated Djokovic Enter U.S. For Miami Open


Gov. Ron DeSantis is the latest Florida politician to urge the Biden Administration to allow unvaccinated Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic to enter the United States so he can play in the Miami Open later this month, making an exception to U.S. vaccination rules, as Djokovic’s vaccination status draws controversy and political attention.

Key Facts

In a letter Tuesday, DeSantis asked President Joe Biden Tuesday to grant Djokovic a waiver to enter the U.S., after the governor said Djokovic’s request to enter the country was denied due to federal rules requiring people who aren’t citizens or green card-holders to show proof of vaccination before traveling to the U.S.

The Florida governor asked Biden whether Djokovic can legally enter the country by boat, noting that the Biden Administration has restricted entry for unvaccinated individuals via air, land or ferry terminal but hasn’t issued “analogous restrictions for non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter our country by boat.”

DeSantis called the denial “unfair, unscientific and unacceptable” and argued that despite the Covid travel restrictions on non-U.S. citizens, thousands of unvaccinated migrants have entered the U.S. through the southern border since Biden took office (federal immigration officials have offered vaccinations at the border).

Djokovic—who has not commented on his potential appearance at the Miami Open—withdrew from Indian Wells, the U.S. tournament he planned to play before the Miami Open, organizers of the tennis tournament said Sunday.

The Miami Open is set to begin March 19 and run through April 2.

What To Watch For

The federal government’s Covid emergency declarations—which require non-U.S. citizens be vaccinated in order to enter the country—are set to expire May 11, after which Djokovic can play in U.S. tennis tournaments again.

Key Background

Djokovic made headlines early in the pandemic after he said he was not vaccinated. Since then, he has had Covid twice and has missed a number of tennis tournaments due to his vaccination status, including last year, when he was deported from Australia ahead of the Australian Open due to the country’s vaccination rules. Initially, Djokovic’s exemption to Australia’s vaccine mandate was approved by the Victoria government, but when the Serb landed in Australia, he was detained, setting off a days-long legal battle. Djokovic’s decision to not get vaccinated against Covid-19 came under fire, especially after the Australian Open debacle, from some in the tennis community. Stefanos Tsitsipas, a player from Greece, said Djokovic “has been playing by his own rules.” After not playing in the Australian Open, Djokovic told the BBC he wanted tournaments to change their requirements, but also said he was willing to forego potential future tournament wins, saying it was “the price I’m willing to pay.” Later in the year Djokovic announced he withdrew from the U.S. Open after saying he wanted to play in the final grand slam of the year, but reiterated he was “not planning to get vaccinated.”


DeSantis is not the first Florida politician to call on the Biden administration to allow Djokovic to play despite his vaccination status. On Friday, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott urged Biden to let Djokovic play in the spring tournament, arguing it would be “illogical and misaligned” to keep him out of the country since the government’s Covid emergency declarations were set to expire soon, and citing Biden’s remarks last year during a 60 Minutes interview that “the pandemic is over.” Late Friday, Scott tweeted that he was told the Department of Homeland Security denied Djokovic’s request for a waiver. DHS did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.

Further Reading

Florida Senators Ask Biden To Allow Novak Djokovic To Play Miami Open Despite Covid Restrictions (Forbes)

Novak Djokovic Withdraws From Indian Wells After Being ‘Denied’ U.S. Entry (Forbes)