There were a lot of mixed feelings when the United States Navy denied Naval Academy graduate Cameron Kinley a chance to play in the NFL earlier this June. By that point, the Midshipman has completed the NFL Draft process, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent and had already begun practicing with the team in offseason activities.
Still, the court of public opinion was split: Should Kinley be allowed to postpone the mandated five years of service to his country that came with his education in order to pursue a pro football career, or must he immediately fulfill that requirement?
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the latest to speak out on the issue, claiming a stake on Kinley's side of the argument. Rubio wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, calling upon him and the nominee for Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, to reverse the decision on Sunday.
“In years past, the U.S. Department of Defense has issued many waivers to allow athletes to temporarily delay their service to our nation to pursue their professional sports dreams,” Rubio wrote, via The Hill. “Unfortunately, Mr. Kinley seems to be the exception, and without reason.”
Rubio's claim is true, waivers have been provided for numerous military academy graduates to pursue their dreams of pro sports immediately following their graduation in recent memory. Specifically, Naval Academy grads Malcolm Perry (2020) and Keenan Reynolds (2016) were granted the exact right that Kinley has been denied.
In addition, four fellow US Military Academy alumni - Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jon Rhattigan, Denver Broncos guard Nolan Laufenberg, New York Jets offensive tackle Parker Ferguson, and Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman George Silvanic have signed with NFL teams in the past year without issue.
While there is a consensus understanding that Kinley should fulfill his duties at some point as his United States military education was paid for in American tax dollars, the decision to deny Kinley the same opportunity as his military counterparts is hypocritical when recent history is factored into the argument.
"Mr. Kinley is not seeking to terminate his commitment to the Navy. Far from it. He wishes to promote service to our great nation from one of the country’s largest stages. I implore you to right this wrong," Rubio exclaimed.
"Grant Mr. Kinley’s waiver to play in the NFL, and send a message to future academy graduates that the United States is a country where Americans can follow their dreams and be true to their commitment."
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