Navy's Cameron Kinley carries a U.S. flag as the team takes the field against Tulsa at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 5, 2020 in Annapolis, Md.

Navy's Cameron Kinley carries a U.S. flag as the team takes the field against Tulsa at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 5, 2020 in Annapolis, Md. (Rob Carr, Getty Images/TNS)

The NFL Players Association expressed its support Thursday for the effort by former Navy cornerback Cameron Kinley to postpone his five-year service commitment and pursue a professional football career immediately.

DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, said that he’d been in contact with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about Kinley’s case. The league and the players’ union have contacted government officials to explore any possibilities that might exist for reversing the Navy’s decision to deny Kinley’s application to delay his service commitment, according to Smith.

“This union fully supports Cameron,” Smith said in a video conference with reporters. “We’ve worked with his agents and his advisers. And I’ve had an opportunity to talk with him a little bit about keeping his head up and making sure that he continues to represent himself as a tremendous young man, but also someone who believes in fulfilling his military service but does want an opportunity to play in the National Football League like other athletes have played in the NBA and the MLB [Major League Baseball].”

Kinley, the president of his class at the Naval Academy, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie and participated in a rookie minicamp. But the Navy’s decision will keep his prospective NFL career on hold.

“I’ve been in touch with Roger and folks at the NFL,” Smith said Thursday. “We had a joint call with his representatives. We’re all working, both making direct contacts with people in government about this. We’ve reached out to his senator and others to help us on this, and both of our public policy teams have been involved in this. Look, like you, I think that this is a tremendous opportunity not only for Cameron, but a tremendous opportunity for the service academies and our military as well. What better way of showing that all of our military men and women are not only serving their country, but promoting the ideals of the Naval Academy of duty, honor and service?

“And there’s never going to be a day when Cameron is not covered on that field where someone isn’t going to say that Mr. Kinley is a graduate of the Naval Academy and is going to be serving his country in a military role after this. . . . Those guys [athletes who played pro sports after attending U.S. service academies] have always been tremendous ambassadors of our country while they were playing a professional sport. I think that would certainly be something that we would want to see [with] Mr. Kinley.”

The Navy said this week that it is declining all such recent requests. There is no appeal process, although Kinley has said he is hoping for a miraculous reversal of the decision.

“No matter what happens, we’re going to be hearing about Cameron Kinley down the road,” Smith said. “But I certainly hope that he gets an opportunity to explore his dream in the National Football League and then go forward to continue to serve his country as he’s done for the last four years.”

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