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Navy Football Player Forced into Active Duty After Going Pro

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A former U.S. Naval Academy football standout is being forced to commit to active-duty military service after he was signed in May by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie free agent.

The Navy is requiring Cameron Kinley, who spent four years at the academy, to immediately commission for the rank of ensign.

According to Yahoo Sports, a policy directive enacted in 2019 allows for graduates pursuing a career in professional sports to delay their commission if approved by the defense secretary. Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker denied Kinley's request and won't permit him to appeal the decision. 

"Following discussions with senior Department of Navy leadership and in accordance with existing Department of Defense policy, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker declined to forward requests from recent Naval Academy graduates to the Secretary of Defense, seeking to delay their commissions," Capt. Jereal Dorsey said in a statement. 

Kinley’s agent, Ryan William-Jenkins, criticized the statement.

“As a Naval Academy graduate, football player, and decorated combat veteran I understand Cameron's commitment,” William-Jenkins said “I also understand there are ways he can fulfill his commitment while representing the Navy and playing professional sports. I played with three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Cardona, who still serves our country as a Navy reservist. 

"If there is a directive and precedent allowing other service academy athletes to pursue this opportunity, what makes Cameron different? It is important to note that this could have a long-term impact on his mental health going forward. He wants to fulfill both of his childhood dreams, playing in the NFL and honorably serving his country." 

Kinley was captain of the football team at Navy and his class president. He expressed his disappointment in the decision.

“Recently, I was informed that my request to delay my service in order to play in the NFL was denied by the Secretary of the Navy,” Kinley wrote. “I have spent the past week processing my emotions, as it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away from me. … 

“I am very aware of the commitment that I made to service when I first arrived at the United States Naval Academy. I look forward to my career as a naval officer in the information warfare community. However, I am deserving of the opportunity to live out another one of my life-long dreams before fulfilling my service requirement.”

Kinley will not be given the chance to appeal the decision.

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