Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking Joe Biden and the White House to make a travel exception for tennis star Novak Djokovic and let him into the U.S. to participate in the Miami Open, which goes from March 19 through April 2.
“It’s time to put pandemic politics aside and give the American people what they want,” DeSantis wrote in the letter. “Let him play,” he continued.
Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore hasn’t been allowed to play in tennis tournaments in the U.S. since the pandemic began because of that refusal. Non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are not vaccinated against COVID cannot currently fly into the country.
The White House responded to DeSantis’s call on Wednesday.
“Regarding the vaccination requirement, I refer you to the CDC. They’re the ones who deal with that. It’s still in place, and we expect everyone to abide by our country’s rule, whether as a participant or a spectator,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday.
The White House last month said it would reevaluate the travel policy that blocks unvaccinated non-citizens from coming into the country when the COVID public health emergency declaration ends on May 11.
According to an amendment from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the vaccination requirement remains in place until at least April 10.
DeSantis is viewed by many as a skeptic of much of the federal government’s guidance on COVID. At times he has scolded students for wearing masks and he criticized former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci. DeSantis is also seen as a likely 2024 presidential candidate.
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Djokovic has lobbied the Biden White House for an exemption, but has not received it, according to the New York Times.
In 2022, Djokovic traveled to Australia to play in the Australian Open but was then deported before the tournament started because he wasn’t vaccinated.