Novak Djokovic sponsors Lacoste to review Australian events ‘as soon as possible’

Lacoste, owned by the Swiss group MF Brands, signed a multi-year agreement with Djokovic as a sponsor in 2017

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Leading Novak Djokovic sponsor Lacoste has said it plans to “review” the events leading up to the tennis star’s deportation from Australia, highlighting the potential fallout for athletes who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

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“As soon as possible we will be in contact with Novak Djokovic to review the events that have accompanied his presence in Australia,” Lacoste said on Monday.

Lacoste, which is owned by the Swiss group MF Brands, signed a multi-year deal with Djokovic as a sponsor in 2017. According to Forbes, the men’s world number one earns $ 30 million a year on sponsorship ties.

The review comes after Djokovic, who has refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, 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 original visa canceled. He had sought to stay in the country to compete for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title, but his legal challenge failed. He has now been deported and returned to Serbia.

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Djokovic’s opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations highlights the dilemma faced by 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, France’s sports minister, said spectators, staff and players should show proof of vaccination to enter sports stadiums and other public places . The tournament in Paris starts in May.

Other sponsors of Djokovic include carmaker Peugeot, luxury brand Hublot and Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International.

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Raiffeisen, who agreed to work with Djokovic in April last year, said his “high reputation in Central and Eastern Europe” was its motivation for the multi-year deal, pointing 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 can not comment on any of his personal decisions.”

Lacoste, founded by two tennis players in 1933, thanked the organizers of the Australian Open for “all their efforts to ensure that the tournament is held under good conditions for players, staff and spectators”.

Djokovic first expressed opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in 2020.

© 2022 The Financial Times Ltd

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