WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon on Wednesday to allow graduates of the U.S. military academies to play professional sports before fulfilling their two-year active-duty military requirement.
Trump’s memo to the secretary of defense reverses a Pentagon requirement that prevented sports stars at the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy from joining professional teams immediately after graduation and hurt recruiting of top athletes at the schools.
The new rules, which will also apply to members of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), will allow the athletes to defer their military obligations until they have completed their professional sports careers.
“Cadets and midshipmen have a short window of time to take advantage of their athletic talents during which playing professional sports is realistically possible,” the executive order said.
“Once implemented, the president’s policy will empower our cherished Academies to compete even better in sporting activities against other colleges and universities, benefiting student-athletes and the Armed Forces,” the White House said in a statement.
Trump first raised the idea last month in remarks at a White House ceremony to award to the annual commander in chief’s trophy to Army for being the best military academy football team.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; editing by Jonathan Oatis)