PUBLISHED: 8:47 PM 2 May 2017

Athletes At U.S. Military Academies No Longer Headed To The Pros As Mattis Reverses Obama Policy

Secretary of Defense James Mattis (pictured above).

Secretary of Defense James Mattis (pictured above).

Secretary of Defense James Mattis (pictured above).

Under President Donald Trump, our country’s priorities are thankfully being set straight. Rather than harboring dangerous criminals or potential terrorists, he’s focusing on national security and immigration reform. On top of this, recent changes approved by Secretary of Defense James Mattis puts national security over sports.

Back in 2016, athletes graduating from the military academy could avoid active duty if they signed a contract with a professional team. However, Secretary Mattis reasoned that because the students at the academy get such a great education at the expense of taxpayers, they must complete 24 months of active duty service. As a result, he rolled back this Obama-era policy.

Secretary James Mattis announced new policy requiring athletes to serve for 2 years instead of going pro.

Secretary James Mattis announced new policy requiring athletes to serve for 2 years instead of going pro.

Earlier this week, Secretary Mattis released a memo reversing the policy affecting athletes serving in the armed forces. Under his new leadership, military service athletes are no longer allowed to join professional sports, such as the NFL, directly after graduating. Instead, they are required to serve 24 months of active duty, just like everyone else.

Dana W. White, the Pentagon Chief Spokesperson told reporters that this policy, which will take effect with this current graduating class, gives the taxpayer the best value for their dollar. She explained that since “graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at [the] taxpayers expense,” it’s only appropriate that they help protect the country for two years. To clarify, she stated, “upon graduation, officers will serve as military officers for their minimum commitment of two years,” noting, “the department has a long history of officer athletes who served their nation before going to the pros including Roger Staubach, Chad Hennings, and David Robinson.”

Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White.

Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White.

According to White, the Trump administration is making this change because “our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services.” If they’re going to join the academy, they need to understand the commitment that they’re making to the country. Professional sports can wait two years. Defending our country is much more important.  

Supporters of the old policy argued that allowing people to avoid active duty if they play sports would help increase enlistment. However, military academies are designed to prepare people for the armed services, not sports. All students enrolled are required to serve two years. There should not be any exceptions made for people because they want to get rich playing sports. This change will help ensure that our country is put before recreation.

Unsurprisingly, when the old policy permitting people to avoid service first passed, many in the military were outraged. Tom Slear, a retired Army Colonel, claimed there’s no evidence to support the notion that allowing people to avoid active duty helps with enlistment. Specifically, he said, “the services contend that academy graduates who play in the NFL boost recruiting, though they could supply no supporting data to McInnis, and they can’t supply any today.” He explained that this is “because, with few exceptions, academy graduates have been NFL busts. Over the past 10 years, only three, all with their five-year active-duty obligations shortened, have had any appreciable playing time.” Because of this, he asked, “why do the services persist in accepting such long odds? More important, why should the taxpayers continue to fund these bets?”

Students graduating from a military academy.

Students graduating from a military academy.

Further, he added that by letting people skip out on service, “the academies suffer a subtle erosion of their ethos.” According to him, this is because “they exist to instill young men and women with a mindset of selfless service to the country. There is no other justification for the significant public expense that supports them. Professional football, on the other hand, is about service to oneself.” He concluded, “[football] has its place, but not for academy graduates who haven’t fulfilled their obligations to their fellow citizens.”

As tensions between the U.S. and countries like North Korea, Syria, and Iran increase, the need for more service members becomes more and more necessary. In North Korea, Kim Jong Un continues to test missiles despite international condemnation. He’s explicitly threatened the United States and our allies, South Korea and Japan. If he continues to jeopardize our national security, it may be necessary for the U.S. to engage in military action. Since this might happen, we can’t afford to let some people avoid duty.

In Syria, President Bashar Al Assad just recently used chemical weapons on his own people, despite previous claims by the Obama administration that all the weapons of mass destruction were removed from the country after their initial use in 2013. His actions resulted in the deaths of countless innocent people, including many women and children. In response, Trump approved of a military strike on the airfield allegedly responsible for deploying the chemical weapons. If Assad continues to violate international law, it may be necessary to send in soldiers, further showing why people can’t skip out on their 2-year commitment.

The same can be said about Iran, the number one state sponsor of terrorism. Just recently, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listed the vast number of problems with the dangerous country. He argued that they were responsible for terrorist activity in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Israel and accused them of harassing U.S. naval vessels, conducting cyber attacks, arbitrarily detaining foreigners, including U.S. citizens, and violating U.N. resolutions by carrying out a series of missile tests.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Iran recently became a global threat after members of the Obama administration agreed to a nuclear deal. Unsurprisingly, many conservatives were angered when the deal was finalized. The former Republican Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, claimed, “history is full of examples of when you enable people or regimes who don’t embrace democratic values you get a bad result…it’s called appeasement.” He believes that Iran will use this agreement to become a nuclear threat.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also bashed the deal. “My initial impression is that this deal is far worse than I ever dreamed it could be and will be a nightmare for the region, our national security and eventually the world at large,” he claimed, adding, “[it’s] possible death sentence for Israel.” Given Iran’s hatred for Israel, if they become nuclear, it’s likely the country would be attacked. In order to prevent this, Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

If people enroll in a military academy, they must have their priorities straight. Playing sports is no reason to avoid active duty. While sports like football are fun and teach great skills, our country must come first. There’s nothing wrong with veterans joining a professional sports team, but if this is what they want to do, they ought to serve at least two years first.