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 TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE on Wednesday directed Acting Secretary of Defense Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war The Biden administration and Tunisia: Off to a good start Overnight Defense: Navy pulls plug on 0 million railgun effort | Esper defends Milley after Trump attacks | Navy vet charged in Jan. 6 riot wants trial moved 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 SandersTrump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor Trump appears at Sarah Huckabee Sanders campaign event 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 MattisWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Trump says Gen. Milley 'last person' he'd want to start a coup with Overnight Defense: Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld dies at 88 | Trump calls on Milley to resign | House subpanel advances Pentagon spending bill 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.