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May 6, 2019
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Monday he is looking into offering a waiver that would allow athletes attending the nation’s military academies to play professional sports immediately upon graduation.

Trump made the announcement Monday while presenting the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy football team during a Rose Garden ceremony. The Army Black Knights completed an 11-2 season, including wins over the Air Force and Navy. Army earned the trophy for the second consecutive year.

Trump said that, under the plan he envisions, athletes would “serve their time after they’re finished with professional sports.” He said that should make recruiting a little easier for the military academies.

Trump’s own Defense Department rescinded a policy in 2017 that allowed the best athletes from the military’s service academies to go straight to the pros upon graduation instead of having to first serve in active duty.

Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in an April 2017 memo, said that the service academies “exist to develop future officers,” and that graduates would serve as “full-fledged military officers carrying out the normal work and career expectations” of someone who received an education at the taxpayers’ expense.

The Pentagon on Monday was not aware of any impending changes to the Mattis policy.

Under the current framework, athletes have to serve two years of active duty before applying for reserve status to pursue a career in professional sports.

Trump paid tribute to the Army football team, which has the nation’s second-longest active winning streak at nine games, behind Clemson University. He described the players as “star athletes and stars in every way.”

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.