Open Court publishes on Tuesdays and Fridays, bringing you sports, life, and the stuff we need to talk about with author and sports journalist Joanne C. Gerstner. Subscribe here and get Open Court straight to your email! If you're part of our subscriber fam, feel free to share this email and get your friends involved. We welcome your comments too, please share at the end of this piece or @joannecgerstner.
Ways to be part of Open Court:
One of the most interesting parts of building the Open Court community, and a HUGE HELLO to all those who have joined in the past few weeks - we have had a nice jump in subscribers!, is processing the comments. I can get comments at the end of the piece on my FB page @joannecgerstner, on Open Court, or by DM, Instagram, email. Yeah, a lot of ways to get into the OC house.
I do my best to stay on top of everything, but being a human means I miss stuff. But I am getting faster and caught up. So yay, me. And this feedback is a good "problem" to have, because I truly enjoy hearing what you think. Your comments make me think and push me. Which is a lovely thing.
I did a FB Live yesterday, and answered some of the questions/comments that had popped through in recent weeks. That seemed to lead to more questions, and good comments, from the OC Fam. Love it!
Let’s sift and sort it all out…
Q: Do sports events and teams really have the right to bar athletes and fans who don’t want to be vaccinated? It seems like it is either not being enforced well or just unfair across the board. I am against the vaccine, don’t have it, and I wonder why athletes can’t have the same control over their bodies. Thanks. - TD
(Joanne note: using initials because I don’t want flaming for those expressing their opinions. My bid for sanity in 2022.)
JCG: Your statement/query has a lot to unpack. The vaccine mandates can come at many levels, from the event or league, local authorities, and the national level. The NFL, for example, developed its vaccine policy with the NFLPA. But local stadia also abide by their local and state regs. Leagues such as the NBA, NHL and MLB, that play in the Canada and the U.S., have two countries’ worth of policies to factor. The Australian Open’s much dissected policy comes from Tennis Australia - which had different rules than the immigration office of Australia.
I agree all of these things, which often are not on the same page, are making things hella confusing. Politics, anger, and posturing are all in the game too. And it sucks. Better leadership and clarity, across the board and globally, would make this better.
Looking around at the leagues/stadia, I see a path carved out for athletes and fans who do not want to be vaccinated. Rules like PCR testing within a certain period, proof of a medical issue preventing vaccination or a religious exemption usually are present as avenues to gain entry if unvaccinated. Athletes, like Tennys Sandgren or Kyrie Irving don’t want the vaccinations, and sports fan TD who also doesn’t want it. Tennys (yes, the most ironic name in tennis) did not go to Australia to play the Open because of the rules. Irving has had well-documented issues with the NBA and his team. You, TD, don’t like the hoops you have to jump through to go to a game. Yes, there are narrow paths and they are a hassle.
As for the “right” to set rules on fans and athletes, oh yeah, the leagues and stadium authorities hold the power. The humans coming to play or attend the game don’t own the show. The leagues, team owners, and public health authorities do. This is where we are, and I really can’t wait until we are on the other side of this rolling maelstrom.
Q: I am increasingly wondering why we are sending any athletes to the Olympics. Between COVID, the quarantines, the Chinese surveillance, the human rights abuses, why are we participating? - JW
JCG: Oh I hear you JW. Loud and clear. Why are we (and to be clear, the dear reader means we, as in the United States), playing the Winter Olympic Hunger Games in 2022. My answer? Because we have before.
The 2008 Beijing Summer Games were awarded by the IOC to achieve the lofty goal of promoting democracy in China. I think we all can agree that policy paper didn’t turn out as planned by the IOC big thinkers. One of my favorite events of covering the 2008 Games was my daily run to the “censorship” desk in the Main Press Center in Beijing, trying to get my email address of the day, (I created 5, just in case of being blocked), unzapped by the Chinese censors. The ladies were polite, dutifully wrote down my issue, stamped the paper form to make it super official, and we all moved on. One day, they gave me some lovely engraved mahogany chopsticks as a keepsake. And that was all that ever amounted to. That reality will be times a million for Beijing 2020. There is no snow, so everything will be man-made. The laptops and cell phones will be hacked and surveillance will be everywhere. COVID testing will be every day, and hard bubbles will be the norm. The human rights abuses will continue, just kept super quiet for the IOC to save face.
The 2014 Sochi Games faced the same issues, with Russia matching a lot of the same list of the super bad things. No COVID, but everything else was present. Throw in the stated Russian anti-gay policy, leaving some of our out athletes wondering for their safety. But the U.S. went. (Fun aside, the Sochi venue, which was bankrolled by Russia for around $51 billion, is now pretty much abandoned. Hell, it was close to being falling apart during the Olympics, with doors, plumbing, electricity and furniture either broken or missing in housing and venues. Check out this lovely website of all the Olympic white elephants, including Sochi 2014 and Beijing 2008)
It is a cynical thing, yes, but keeping athletes home only hurts them. Let Chloe Kim, Oksana Masters, hockey players and Nathan Chen go for their glory. At least they will get something out of this. Granted, the circumstances of being watched and COVID lurking are not great. But this is where we are.
See you Friday!