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 TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat MORE on Wednesday directed Acting Secretary of Defense Mark EsperMark EsperFive things to know about emerging US, Taliban peace deal Withdrawal from Africa could undermine partnership with France Overnight Defense: Seven day 'reduction in violence' starts in Afghanistan | US, Taliban plan to sign peace deal Feb. 29 | Trump says top intel job has four candidates 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 SandersSarah Sanders says she 'can't think of anything dumber than' having Congress run foreign policy Rapid turnover shapes Trump's government God did not elect Trump, people did 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 MattisFed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Why US democracy support matters Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul 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.