Trump looks to boost service-academy sports with duty waiver for pro athletes

"They’ll serve their time after they’re finished with professional sports," the president said at a Rose Garden ceremony for the Army's football team Monday.
Image: U.S. President Trump welcomes U.S. Military Academy Football Team at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before presenting the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy Football Team in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 6, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he wants to allow top athletes from service academies to defer their military duty so they can play professional sports.

"I’m going to look at doing a waiver for service academy athletes who can get into the major leagues like the NFL, hockey, baseball," Trump said at a Rose Garden event honoring the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team, which won its annual game against the Naval Academy — and the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy — last year. "They’ll serve their time after they’re finished with professional sports."

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The president said the move would boost recruiting for the service academy's sports teams.

"Can you imagine this coach with that little asset?" Trump said of the Black Knights' Jeff Monken.

David Robinson, a star center for the San Antonio Spurs and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, famously had to wait two years to play after being taken first in the 1987 NBA draft so that he could fulfill his service requirement to the Navy.

Napoleon McCallum, a Navy graduate, played for the then-Los Angeles Raiders of the NFL while on active duty in the Navy in the mid-1980s and again after finishing his service requirement.

"The permission to participate is given to Ensign McCallum with the understanding that his responsibilities as a commissioned naval officer are primary and his participation will not be allowed to conflict with assigned shipboard duties," the Navy said in a statement at the time.

Typically, graduates of service academies are required to serve at least five years on active duty after graduation.