The roots of Novak Djokovic’s vaccine hesitancy

The roots of Novak Djokovic’s vaccine hesitancy. By James Billot.

Countless media articles in recent days have attempted to portray Novak Djokovic as a bone-headed anti-vaxxer or a whimsical voodoo nutritionist. …

It is well known that the young Djokovic narrowly avoided NATO bombs falling out of the sky during the Kosovan war, but perhaps more salient is how his response to the lingering communist mindset in Yugoslavia shaped his attitude towards authority. …

You are taught not to be open-minded…If you are not open-minded, then you can be easily manipulated. People at the top are very invested in making sure we do not question what we are told to believe. Whether it’s a communist ruler, or for many of us, the rules of the food and pharmaceutical industries, people at the top understand that most of us are led by fear.

— Novak Djokovic, Serve to Win

The subsequent collapse of communist Yugoslavia into bloody civil war further highlighted to Novak the dangers of reflexively following government authorities and encouraged a more free-thinking approach on a variety of topics. …

For Novak, this attitude translated into early opposition to the Covid vaccine. Although he subsequently softened his stance to say that he wanted to have an “open mind” and “the option to choose what’s best for my body,” he has criticised the media for misrepresenting his views, accusing it of producing “propaganda”. There is “less and less free journalism and free information,” he said, “more and more is controlled by one or two sources, so that propaganda is spread that is beneficial to the elite or a specific group of people.”

There are other strands of belief that must be understood, most significantly his deep Orthodox Christian faith. During the Kosovo war, Djokovic talks of an epiphany during his childhood: “once you realize that you are truly powerless, a certain sense of freedom takes over…to truly accept your own powerlessness is liberating”. His faith makes him stubborn on matters of integrity: if he is not convinced something is the morally right thing to do, he will not do it. As Djokovic puts it: “Before I am an athlete, I am an Orthodox Christian”.