After the Department of Defense decided in 2016 that service academy athletes could defer their military duty to play professional sports, Defense secretary James Mattis has rescinded that order.

This comes after the Air Force decided that Air Force Academy athletes could not receive a waiver and would not be able to be drafted into the NFL. That news “shocked” some Air Force players, who weren’t told of the Air Force’s plans ahead of time. Now, service academy players will have to serve two years of active duty before they can play professional sports, as was the case before 2016, starting with David Robinson in 1987. Other service academy graduates have to serve eight years total, including five on active duty and three on reserve duty.

As noted by the Washington Post, that policy did acknowledge that professional athletes can help with recruiting efforts, which is why the active duty commitment was cut down.

“Officers appointed from cadet or midshipman status will not be voluntarily released from active duty principally to pursue a professional sports activity with the potential of public affairs or recruiting benefit to the DoD during the initial 2 years of active commissioned service. A waiver to release a cadet or midshipman prior to the completion of 2 years of active service must be approved by the ASD(M&RA). Exceptional personnel with unique talents and abilities may be authorized excess leave or be released from active duty and transferred to the Selective Reserve after completing 2 years of active commissioned service when there is a strong expectation their professional sports activity will provide the DoD with significant favorable media exposure likely to enhance national recruiting or public affairs.”

The 2016 policy was adopted after former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

About Kevin Trahan

Kevin mostly covers college football and college basketball, with an emphasis on NCAA issues and other legal issues in sports. He is also an incoming law student. He's written for SB Nation, USA Today, VICE Sports, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, among others. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.