Trump orders new policy for service academy graduates pursuing pro sports

President Donald Trump meets with Army cadets ahead of an NCAA college football between Army and Navy, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Philadelphia.


By AVA WALLACE | The Washington Post | Published: June 26, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wants to make it easier for service academy athletes to play professional sports immediately after graduating.

On Wednesday, Trump signed a presidential memorandum ordering the Secretary of Defense to draft a new policy allowing graduates of the nation's military academies to defer their service obligations in favor of pursuing careers in pro sports.

Trump first floated the idea in May when presenting the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy's football team.

"As I recently stated, these student-athletes should be able to defer their military service obligations until they have completed their professional sports careers," Trump said in a memo Wednesday. "Such cadets and midshipmen have a short window of time to take advantage of their athletic talents during which playing professional sports is realistically possible."

Current policy, which was enacted in 2017, mandates that service academy graduates serve two years of active duty before they are eligible to apply for reserve status to pursue careers in pro sports. Trump's Defense Department had rescinded an Obama administration policy that had made some service academy athletes eligible to apply for reserve status immediately after graduation. Graduates of the nation's academies generally incur a five-year active service obligation in exchange for free education, although select graduates have been granted waivers in recent years.

Former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2015, was able to defer his active-duty service after the Baltimore Ravens drafted him with the 182nd pick in the 2016 draft. Reynolds is now a wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks and serves in the Navy Reserve.

Navy grad Joe Cardona, a long snapper for the New England Patriots, also serves in the Reserve. Both football players spend a few weeks out of each year with their Reserve units. More recently, the issue arose again when the Boston Red Sox drafted Navy pitcher Noah Song with the 137th pick in the MLB draft this month, making him the highest MLB draft selection in Naval Academy history.

Per Trump's memorandum, the Pentagon has 120 days to come up with a new policy.

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