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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
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE on Wednesday directed Acting Secretary of Defense Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition Brennan takes final shot at Trump: 'I leave his fate to our judicial system, his infamy to history, & his legacy to a trash heap' 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 SandersSarah Sanders on Trump's reported war dead criticism: 'Those comments didn't happen' Sarah Sanders memoir reportedly says Trump joked she should hook up with Kim Jong Un McEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation MORE said in a statement.

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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 MattisProgressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper Talk grows of Trump firings at Pentagon, CIA 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.