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Trump floating idea to allow service academy athletes to go straight to pros


President Trump said Monday he is considering a new policy that would allow athletes from military service academies to play professional sports before serving time in the military.

Such a move would change current Pentagon policy, which allows athletes to obtain a waiver to play pro sports after serving two years on active duty. Trump said the wait is a “long time” and that cutting it would “make recruiting a little bit easier” for service academy sports programs.

“I'm going to look at doing a waiver for service-academy athletes who can get into the major leagues, like the NFL, hockey, baseball,” Trump said during a Rose Garden ceremony awarding the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy. “And they'll serve their time after they're finished with professional sports.”

Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis made the current policy in 2017, which rescinded a 2016 decision allowing certain athletes to bypass active-duty service entirely and fulfill their obligations in the reserves while playing professional sports.

But Trump said loosening the rules for exceptional athletes is “a great idea” and “really fair too.”

Two years ago, the Defense Department said it decided to reimpose an active-duty requirement in order to ensure military readiness.

“Our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services,” then-Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a May 2017 statement. “Graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at taxpayer expense.”

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy are all funded by the Defense Department. Students receive free tuition and board in exchange for serving at least five years in their respective branches.

Prominent athletes from service academies include Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach and two-time NBA champion David Robinson, both of whom graduated from the Naval Academy and served on active duty before going pro.

Standout Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds received a deferment from active-duty service after he was taken by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2016 NFL Draft. He is currently a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

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