Most professional athletes get vaccinated, but the unvaccinated make the headlines
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Unbridled sports stars dominate the headlines
The vast majority of professional athletes are vaccinated against COVID-19. But three notoriously unvaccinated superstars are currently making the news for a variety of reasons:
The world’s most dominant tennis player – who declined to say if he’s been vaccinated but whose actions all indicate he’s not – looked set to break the all-time record for the men’s Grand Slam titles at this month’s Australian Open. His 20 major wins include a record nine for the Australian, which he has won the past three consecutive years. But now it looks like Djokovic can’t even play.
The Serbian star arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday after obtaining a medical exemption from the state government of Victoria which allowed him to bypass the vaccination requirement for those entering the country. But, after a public outcry, Australian border officials at the airport today rejected Djokovic’s exemption and canceled his visa. His lawyers are challenging this decision in court in the hope of avoiding deportation. But the hearing will not take place until Monday, leaving the world No.1 in limbo.
Meanwhile, Djokovic is confined to a hotel room, and his mother accuses Australian authorities of treating her son “like a prisoner” and carrying out a “political attack” in an attempt to prevent him from setting the record. Slam. Djokovic’s father went further at the couple’s press conference today, comparing his son’s plight to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and portraying him as a national freedom fighter. “Novak is Serbia, and Serbia is Novak,” he said in Serbian. “They are marching on Novak, and with that, they are also marching on Serbia and the Serbian people.”
Normally, the return of one of the world’s most talented basketball players after missing the first three months of the season would be greeted with unbridled celebration. But, with Kyrie, nothing is ever that easy.
The mercurial flat earth bubbler caused a big stench during the preseason with his refusal to get the shot – a major issue for his team, the Brooklyn Nets, given New York City’s mandate requiring athletes professionals performing in indoor public places are vaxxed. Irving could have played road games in areas that don’t have such a rule, but the Nets have said they won’t allow him to be a part-time player.
Until their list was decimated last month by an epidemic. Brooklyn blinked, invited Kyrie back and (after a stint in NBA COVID-19 protocol triggered by a positive or inconclusive test) he made his season debut last night in Indiana. Irving scored 22 in a Nets victory, then dodged questions from reporters about whether he would reconsider his stance on the vaccine. This could become an even bigger headache for Brooklyn as the playoffs begin, when Irving may have to be out for almost half of a series’ games.
The reigning NFL MVP angered many fans in November when he tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss 10 days, revealing he was not vaccinated. Ahead of the season Rodgers gave the impression he was vaxxed when he told reporters he had ‘been immunized’ and added ‘there are guys on the squad who haven’t been vaccinated. … I’m not going to judge these guys ”. Turns out he was one of those guys. Rodgers explained that he had “an allergy to an ingredient that is in mRNA vaccines”, but he also did not help himself by accusing “culture cancellation” and “the crowd woke up. “to have been caught in a lie.
As we know, however, the NFL has been known to forgive personal transgressions as long as you deliver on Sunday (see: Brown, Antonio). Rodgers has therefore been able to largely put the controversy behind him by playing brilliant football over the past two months. He led Green Bay to six wins in seven games since returning to the roster, putting the Packers alone atop the league with a 13-3 record heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
With no obvious choice for the MVP, some wonder if Rodgers will become the first repeat winner since Peyton Manning in 2009. But it looks like some voters could outright refuse to choose him, including a Chicago-based reporter who recorded this week. Rodgers responded by calling the guy an “absolute bum” who should be deprived of his vote.
The Last Olympic Sport: Don’t Get COVID. With less than a month to go to the Beijing Games and punitive rules in place for anyone who tests positive, Olympic athletes go to great lengths to ensure they are allowed to board their planes and compete in China. Canadian figure skater Eric Radford, who recovered from the virus just in time to take the ice tomorrow at the national championships, called the current landscape an “invisible minefield”. The Canadian women’s hockey team has decided to cancel its last exhibition games, preferring the risk of rust to that of another epidemic like the one it experienced last month. Canadian speed skaters have seen all of their upcoming training camps outside the province and country abandoned. The Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials have been canceled and officials will simply name a duo to represent the country rather than hold a tournament to decide. All of this uncertainty increases the stress levels of athletes at a time already filled with pressure and nervous anticipation. Learn more about how they and the Canadian Olympic officials are trying to get away with this story from CBC Sports‘ Devin Heroux.
Antonio Brown is officially no longer a buccaneer. Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians has vowed the volatile receiver will be thrown overboard after his bizarre exit from Sunday’s game in New York. Amid an apparent argument with the coaching staff on the sidelines, Brown stripped to his waist, threw his gloves into the stands, waved to the crowd and ran into the tunnel, leaving the team. Since then, Brown has alleged the Bucs attempted to get him to play with a serious ankle injury. The team denied this, saying his medics cleared Brown to play and gave no indication he was too injured to do so. Today, the reigning Super Bowl champions cut it off, leaving Tom Brady without one of his best targets heading into the playoffs.
In her darkest hours, Joannie Rochette displayed incredible strength and grace. A lot of us are going through a rough time right now, but imagine how Rochette felt at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Two days before the start of the Canadian figure skating star’s competition, her 55-year-old mother, Thérèse, died of a heart attack shortly after arriving in town to cheer on her daughter. Overwhelmed with grief, Rochette found the strength not only to perform, but also to win the bronze medal in the women’s competition. Relive one of the most moving moments in Olympic history through the eyes of those involved by reading this oral history from CBC Sports’ Doug Harrison.
Coming to CBC Sports
With less than a month to go before the Beijing Games, many important winter Olympic sporting events are taking place on Friday. Here’s what you can stream live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem:
Skeleton: The bad news is that Canada only has one podium to show for the first six stops of the World Cup season – a bronze medal by Mirela Rahneva last month in Winterberg, Germany. The good news is that the circuit returns to the same location on Friday. Watch the men’s race from 4 a.m.ET and the women’s race from 8:30 a.m.ET.
Canadian Figure Skating Championships: This year’s national championships, which are held without spectators in Ottawa, also serve as the final audition for the Olympic team. Learn more about the key skaters and scenarios here and here. Watch the short programs across all four disciplines, starting with the women at noon ET, followed by ice dancing at 2:45 p.m. ET, couples at 5:30 p.m. and men at 6:50 p.m. ET. Free skates are Saturday.
Freestyle skiing – moguls: Canadian star Mikaël Kingsbury finds himself in an unusual position: behind someone in the Men’s Mogul World Cup standings. Japan’s Ikuma Horishima has won the last two events to beat Kingsbury, who is aiming for his 10th consecutive World Cup title and second consecutive Olympic gold medal. Watch the first of back-to-back mogul competitions at Kingsbury Field in Mont-Tremblant, Que., Friday at 2 p.m. ET. The second leaves Saturday at the same time.
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