Vaccine mandates are slowly becoming more and more frequent, despite pushback from the Republican Party and anti-vaxxers. New York City, for example, has introduced one of the nation's restricted mandates which is now the subject of much controversy thanks to the US Open. After initially saying it won't have a vax mandate, The US Tennis Association (USTA) did a u-turn on August 27, albeit with one controversial stance - only fans will have to be vaccinated.
With GOP-controlled states like Texas and Florida firmly refusing to impose a vaccine mandate, the Delta variant has ripped through the US like a major hurricane. It has also led to some controversial decisions by pro-vaxxers. For example, a judge in Chicago stripped a mother of her parental rights in August after she refused to get vaccinated. In Alabama, Doctor Jason Valentine went viral after he firmly refused to see unvaxxed patients. In Flordia, Doctor Brian Warden used the chaos to sell opt-out letters to parents, before he was caught and fired.
The story in Democrat-controlled states though is vastly different. Vaccine and mask mandates have seen relatively lower cases of Covid-19, allowing most people to resume their activities. The mandate has made its way to the US Open, which kicked off on August 24. Days later, the USTA announced a vaccine mandate "to put the health and safety of our fans first." Ironically though, players were exempt, which has been the source of much anger online.
No vax mandate for players
Initially, the US Open would not have had a vaccine or mask mandate, but the USTA agreed to do a u-turn on August 27, which left fans fuming. The decision was made by the New York City Mayor's office, the USTA said in a statement. The mandate requires anyone 12 and over to have had at least one dose. Players, on the other hand, are allowed to participate without needed a shot. The double standard was highlighted by Andry Murray.
"We have a responsibility as players that are traveling across the world to look out for everyone else. I'm happy that I'm vaccinated. I'm hoping that more players choose to have it in the coming months," he said according to The Daily Mail. Murray wasn't the only one to address the discrepancy. Belarusian star Victoria Azarenka summed it up by telling reporters, "It's bizarre that fans have to be vaccinated and players are not." She added, "I don't see the point of stalling it, because we all want to be safe, we all want to continue doing our jobs."
It's unclear exactly how many players haven't got the shot, but so far five have publicly revealed that they are yet to get jabbed - Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Gilles Simon, and Johanna Konta. It's even more bizarre since the USTA required chair umpires, ball kids, the media, and security to all be vaxxed ahead of the tournament. Exempting players alone puts the city at risk if one of them happens to carry a strain of Covid-19 that is more vaccine-resistant.
'They shouldn't be allowed to play'
With people already left furious by the last-minute vax mandate, the double standard added more fuel to the fire. "So everyone attending the US Open has to have at least 1 dose of the vaccine... But the players can't sign autographs or take photos even tho they all want to? It's so stupid," one person commented. Another asked, "@usopen why do all fans and anyone working at us open have to prove covid vaccine and yet some players have not had vaccine yet they can still play, makes no sense, #GetVaccinatedNow." One person replied to the news, "They shouldn’t be allowed to play."
One user asked, "@usopen One must be vaccinated to be able to see a tennis match, instead unvaccinated players (Djokovic, Tsitsipas, etc) get to play matches, travel by plane and stay at hotels without being vaccinated Why the privilege?" Another person replied, "How do you mandate this for the fans but not the players? Makes absolutely no sense. We are all in this together. Exceptions can’t be made for professional athletes. Terrible optics."
List most other sports, tennis players aren't mandated to get their jabs. The NBA, NFL, and MLB are all encouraging vaccines with various options, including threats of bans, but have fallen short of instituting a full mandate. The NBA for example announced on September 1 that unvaxxed players of the Knicks, Nets, and Warriors would not be able to play in home games. The NFL meanwhile, has said it would welcome a vax mandate, but only if the players' association approves. The vast double standards aren't just bad optics, but a real threat to cancellation of games if multiple players catch Covid.