STARS MUST WAIT FOR PRO CHANCES
Department of Defense alters pro sports guidelines.
The fallout from the U.S. Department of Defense’s decision to rescind a short-lived policy that created an avenue for graduating athletes from service academies to forgo their required active duty and turn pro immediately was swift and extensive.
No NFL prospects from the academies were drafted, including the Air Force Academy’s all-time leading receiver Jalen Robinette, who was a late-round projection. None of the academy’s senior cadets were extended NFL training camp invites. And Griffin Jax, an Air Force baseball player drafted in the third round by the Minnesota Twins last year, faces a future of active duty instead of one on the mound.
A shred of hope remained for all, but it was a longshot. Members of congressional delegations from Ohio and Colorado opened inquiries into the D.O.D.’s decision and the issue made it all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The House recently voted on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act written by Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, a former Syracuse football player and member of the U.S. Army JAG Corps, to try to overturn the order of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, which was signed after the 2017 NFL draft.
But the amendment lost, 318-107, meaning the graduated cadets who were denied a possible ready reserve status will not be grandfathered into the old policy and will instead continue their active duty.
Although the old D.O.D. policy that was enacted in 2016 never guaranteed ready reserve status, it at least granted the opportunity to apply for it and potentially pursue a professional sports career if athletes were extended a pro contract.
Robinette landed rookie minicamp invites from the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, while teammates Weston Steelhammer worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles and Ryan Watson tried out for the Arizona Cardinals.
But it ended there.
Two days ago, Jax threw out his last pitch for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Twins’ Single-A affiliate. Monday, he was to begin his career as a second lieutenant, serving as an acquisitions officer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Robinette’s status was complicated further by his removal from the academy’s graduation line in May because of a review of his qualifications.
“Cadet Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be placed on hold while we further evaluate,” Ray Bowden, a spokesman in the public affairs office for the Academy, said in a statement to The Denver Post. “Due to privacy-related concerns, we are unable to comment on the circumstances. We can say that the circumstances do not involve any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and are unrelated to cadet Robinette’s professional football pursuits.”
Robinette’s status is still under review.
Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette catches a long pass for a touchdown against Boise State two seasons ago. Robinette, the academy’s all-time leading receiver, will be on active duty before getting any opportunity to enter the NFL.