- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2019

President Trump said Monday he is considering a waiver to let military service academy athletes play in the pros before they fulfill their obligation to years of service.

Speaking at the White House, he said the waiver would allow young athletes from West Point or Annapolis to chase their dreams in the NFL or MLB right away, rather than spending those productive years in the military.

“They’ll serve their time after they’re done with professional sports,” Mr. Trump said at a Rose Garden ceremony to hand the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Army Black Knights football team.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I think it’s really fair, too.”

The policy change would help service academies recruit the best athletes, the president theorized, instead of losing them to other schools.

“Yes, sir,” Army football coach Jeff Monken said in agreement.

Mr. Trump appeared to be suggesting a return to an Obama-era waiver policy that had allowed academy graduates to defer their duty time to go pro in their sport.

Mr. Trump’s initial defense secretary, James Mattis, had rescinded that policy just months into the new administration, saying graduates must serve at least two years before requesting reserve status.

The Pentagon at the time noted legendary NFL quarterback Roger Staubach and NBA center David “The Admiral” Robinson deferred their careers after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy.

“Our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said in defending Mr. Mattis’s move. “Graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at taxpayer expense.”

Mr. Mattis resigned last year.

The Defense Department on Monday said it’s sticking by the 2017 revised policy.

Members commissioned from the service academies or Senior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) programs “will not be released from active duty to participate in professional activities/sports until completing 24 months of their Active Duty Service Obligation,” it said.

Mr. Trump mused about a change during a buoyant celebration of the Army football squad, which defeated Navy and Air Force teams en route to the trophy in December, making them back-to-back champs.

Mr. Trump detailed the Army Black Knights’ victories in vivid detail, hailing individual players and their collective mettle in a 11-2 season.

“Every time you enter the field you prove that you are ‘Army Strong,’” Mr. Trump said.

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