US Military Academy Athletes Can Now Delay Service, Go Pro

Associated Press
November 14, 2019 - 3:49 pm

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2019, file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper talks to the media with Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Khalid Al Attiyah at the Pentagon in Washington. Barely four months into his tenure, Esper is making his second trek across the Pacific. And yet it is the Middle East – most recently a near-war with Iran and an actual war in Syria – that in Washington commands more attention and demands more American troops. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper has issued new guidelines that will allow athletes attending the nation's military academies to seek waivers to delay their service and play professional sports immediately upon their graduation.

A memo signed Friday by Esper requires athletes going pro to get approval from the defense secretary. It says they must eventually fulfill their military obligation or repay the cost of their college education.

The memo was obtained by The Associated Press. President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon in May to come up with a way to allow athletes to play professional sports immediately upon graduation.

The Pentagon in 2018 rescinded a policy allowing athletes from the service academies to go straight to the pros. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued that the academies exist to train officers.

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