Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away

Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE on Wednesday directed Acting Secretary of Defense Mark EsperMark EsperTrump urges GOP to fight for him Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Trump says Israel, Jordan asked US to leave troops in Syria MORE to develop a policy that will allow athletes enrolled at service academies to play professional sports immediately upon graduation, reversing a policy his administration implemented in 2017.

"Highly talented cadets and midshipmen who receive the extraordinary benefits of an education from an Academy or through a ROTC program at taxpayer expense should be able to both take advantage of the short window of time during which playing professional sports is realistically possible, while also honoring the commitment they have made to our Armed Forces and our country," press secretary Sarah SandersSarah Elizabeth SandersBill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings White House correspondent April Ryan to moderate fundraising event for Buttigieg White House press secretary defends lack of daily briefings: Trump 'is the most accessible president in history' MORE said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump signed a presidential memo that gives Esper 120 days to develop a policy that would authorize graduates of service academies to go directly to the pros, "consistent with their military service obligation."

"Once implemented, the President’s policy will empower our cherished Academies to compete even better in sporting activities against other colleges and universities, benefitting student-athletes and the Armed Forces," Sanders said. "The President wants our military to be strong in all respects, even in athletics."

The president said earlier this year during a Rose Garden ceremony awarding the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy that he was open to changing the policy for service academy athletes. 

Current Pentagon policy allows athletes to obtain a waiver to play pro sports after serving two years on active duty. That rule was implemented by then-Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisJohn Feehery: Mutiny on the Bounty Amash rips Trump over move to send troops from Syria to Iraq Defense chief says US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq MORE in 2017, who rescinded a 2016 decision allowing certain athletes to bypass active-duty service entirely and fulfill their obligations in the reserves while playing professional sports.

The Pentagon said in 2017 it was changing the rule to ensure military preparedness.

Trump nominated Esper last week to serve as the full-time Defense secretary. His nomination must still be sent to the Senate, where he will need confirmation before taking over the job.