Novak Djokovic’s sponsor Lacoste to ‘review events’ around Australian deportation
French kit maker plans to speak to unvaccinated tennis star ‘as soon as possible’
Leading Novak Djokovic sponsor Lacoste has said it plans to “review” the events that led to the tennis star’s deportation from Australia, highlighting the potential fallout for athletes who remain unvaccinated against Covid-19. “As soon as possible, we will be in touch with Novak Djokovic to review the events that have accompanied his presence in Australia,” Lacoste said on Monday. Lacoste, owned by Swiss group MF Brands, signed a multiyear deal with Djokovic as kit sponsor in 2017. According to Forbes, the men’s world number-one earns $30m a year from sponsorship tie-ups. The review comes after Djokovic, who has declined to be vaccinated against Covid, said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Australian courts had decided to uphold a government decision to cancel his visa. The ruling means he is unable to compete in this month’s Australian Open tournament. Djokovic had entered Australia with a medical exemption from a vaccine requirement but had his initial visa cancelled. He had sought to stay in the country to compete for a record 21st Grand Slam title but his legal challenge was unsuccessful. He has now been deported and returned to Serbia. Djokovic’s opposition to mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations highlights the dilemma facing sports sponsors, which must weigh their approach when athletes raise objections to widely recommended public health measures such as vaccination.
His participation in the French Open, the next Grand Slam on the tennis calendar, is also in doubt after Roxana Maracineanu, sports minister for France, said that spectators, staff and players would need to show proof of vaccination to enter sports stadiums and other public places. The tournament in Paris is due to start in May. Other sponsors of Djokovic include carmaker Peugeot, luxury watch brand Hublot and Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International. Raiffeisen, which agreed a tie-up with Djokovic in April last year, said his “high reputation in central and eastern Europe” was its motivation for the multiyear deal and pointed to “his social commitment”. But it added that the partnership had been agreed “long before the current reporting on Novak Djokovic and his Covid-19 vaccination status, or his participation in the Australian Open”. Hublot previously told the Financial Times: “Novak Djokovic is his own person. We cannot comment on any of his personal decisions.” Lacoste, founded by two tennis players in 1933, thanked the organisers of the Australian Open for “all their efforts to ensure that the tournament is held in good conditions for players, staff and spectators”. Djokovic first voiced opposition to mandatory Covid-19 vaccination in 2020.
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