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Military Academy Athletes Can No Longer Defer Service To Play Pro Sports

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen take the football field for the 113th Army-Navy Football game at Lincoln Financial Field, Dec. 8, 2012. (U.S. Navy /Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)
May 02, 2017

The Defense Department has rescinded their revised pro sports policy less than a year after a 2016 change that allowed athletes enrolled at U.S. military service academies to defer their two year mandatory active-duty service before playing professional sports.

The Department of Defense announced Monday that all graduates of the military academies and the Reserve Officer Training Corps will be required to two years of active duty service before accepting contracts from pro sports teams.

“The military academies or Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and lethality of our military services,” the memorandum read. “During their first two years following graduation, officers will serve as full-fledged military officers carrying out normal work and career expectations of an officer who has received the extraordinary benefits of an ROTC or military academy education at taxpayer expense.”

The memo cancels a May 5, 2016 memo that would allow military athletes to play professional sports before serving.

The news comes just four days after Air Force Academy athletes found out that their waivers, which would allow the cadets to join the Ready Reserve and play professional football in the National Football League, would not be approved by the Air Force.

Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette was a candidate to be selected in the NFL draft prior to the ruling. He spent the past several months preparing himself for the draft.

“The Air Force Academy released a statement from the Air Force prior to the NFL draft this week so NFL teams would be aware that the service would no longer support these requests and they could conduct their business in good faith, as Air Force Academy cadet Jalen Robinette was the lone NFL Draft prospect from any of the academies,” the Air Force said in a statement.

“Our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement.

“Graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at taxpayer expense — upon graduation, officers will serve as military officers for their minimum commitment of two years,” White added, citing other professional athletes that served in the military such as David Robinson and Roger Staubach.

The Air Force Academy, West Point and the Naval Academy are funded by the Department of Defense while the US Coast Guard Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, are funded by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Transportation.