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Discussion: Let’s talk about Service Academy athletes and the pursuit of pro sports

Is there a path to play professionally AND serve the country?

NCAA Football: U.S. Military Academy-White House Visit Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought everyone had moved on from the “service academy graduate - professional athlete” conundrum, President Donald Trump threw everyone a curve ball.

Upon West Point’s football team visiting the White House on Monday to receive the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy, the president touted his “big new idea” saying, “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. We’re going to see if we can do it and they’ll serve their time after they’re finished with professional sports.”

Yep. The same administration that in 2017 reversed a 2016 policy shift — which allowed service academy graduates to participate in professional athletics — claimed this week taht it may find an innovative way to permit graduates to play pro sports and serve.

Look, for those of you who don’t follow this issue — and I imagine that encompasses a majority of college sports fans — this is a hot button item at Army, Navy and Air Force. Most service members and graduates have a feeling one way or the other, and in fact, most taxpayers should understand why it is a controversial topic.

You see, many estimates value a service academy education at over $400,000. The purpose of these institutions is to develop leaders that serve on active duty under the Department of Defense umbrella. Furthermore, these schools are the primary commissioning sources for their respective military branches and represent a substantial portion of military officers that decided to dedicate a significant portion of their lives to a 20-plus-year career in the military. This is why Congress approves service academy budgets and, frankly, their existence.

So, does paving a path that allows service academy graduates to pursue playing professional sports hinder that mission or the purpose behind those federally funded academies? Well, that is a question that will get you a whole lot of answers.

For example: Many are concerned with the precedent this may set beyond athletics (NPQ = Not Physically Qualified to serve).

Others ask the obvious question:

These questions are certainly important and require answers before any potential waiver comes into fruition.

Others invested in this topic see the issue as a reflection of today and an adaptation to today’s work/professional setting in general.

Some individuals argue that the number of athletes that may develop into professional talent will always be small, so why not give them an opportunity to hit the big stage?

Dan Wolken brings up a good point, the core mission does NEED to be training officers. But, would a waiver program deter from that mission?

Still others are seeking to simply generate conversation on the topic, for or against the idea of a waiver:

In Joe’s opinion, the precedent has really already been set by the existence of the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) and even the Army’s creation of an eSports team. The WCAP allows service members who are elite athletes to compete in sports with an international governing body (essentially Olympic sports). There doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch between allowing service members to participate in the WCAP and allowing professional athletes to compete in their respective sports. If anything, create an off-shoot of the WCAP for professional athletes.

Another potential solution could be to allow professional athletes to serve in the Reserve as opposed to deferring active duty service. There are plenty of roles and functions that a service member could perform while also being a professional athlete.

Allowing service members with the ability to compete in professional sports gives each branch of service the opportunity to utilize those service members as ambassadors. They might not be deployed overseas actively engaging the enemy, but there are other missions that these athletes could be a part of, such as recruiting or public affairs. An effective solution shouldn’t polarize service versus being a professional athlete, rather it should attempt to capitalize on the opportunity of having professional athletes that serve.

But ultimately, the real victims here are the athletes who don’t even know what is available to them after graduation because the policy keeps changing.

Regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on and what the president ends up enacting, it’s a no-brainer that having a consistent policy is in the best interest of the student-athletes. Because until the Department of Defense makes up its mind, service academy grads like Austin Cutting, who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in this year’s draft, lay in waiting.

So, we simply ask: what say you? Should service academy graduates have the ability to play first and serve later? Comment below to let us know what you think.


How do you feel about President Trump’s recent comments regarding potentially allowing service academy graduates a path to play professional athletics directly after graduation?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Let them play!
    (12 votes)
  • 19%
    Serve first!
    (5 votes)
  • 11%
    Case-by-case basis!
    (3 votes)
  • 23%
    Who cares? Can we just have a stable plan in place already?
    (6 votes)
26 votes total Vote Now