At Army-Navy game, Trump touts new pro sports op­tion

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - As­so­ci­ated Press

By Jonathan Lemire

PHILADEL­PHIA (AP) >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump used his ap­pear­ance at the an­nual Army-Navy foot­ball game to pitch to the play­ers an ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy change that clears the way for ath­letes at the na­tion’s mil­i­tary acad­e­mies to play pro­fes­sional sports af­ter they grad­u­ate and de­lay their ac­tive-duty ser­vice.

To cheers in each locker room be­fore the 120th play­ing of the game, he said he was giv­ing those ath­letes with pro po­ten­tial the chance ‘’to make a for­tune and af­ter you’re all fin­ished with your pro­fes­sional ca­reer, you’ll go and you’ll serve and ev­ery­body’s thrilled.’’

Turn­ing to Army’s coach, Jeff Monken, the pres­i­dent joked, ‘’It prob­a­bly gives the coach no rea­son to ever lose an­other game.’’

A memo signed in Novem­ber by De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper spelled out the new guide­lines. It said the ath­letes must get ap­proval from the Pen­tagon chief and it re­quires them to even­tu­ally ful­fill their mil­i­tary obli­ga­tion or re­pay the costs of their ed­u­ca­tion. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion put a pol­icy in place al­low­ing some ath­letes to go to the pros and de­fer their mil­i­tary ser­vice.

In the Navy locker room, he con­grat­u­lated the fa­vored Mid­ship­men on ‘’a hell of a sea­son,’’ but added, ‘’You know, it’s only a great sea­son, you know it has to hap­pen to­day, oth­er­wise you wouldn’t call it a great sea­son. So you bet­ter go out there and play hard.’’

With impeachmen­t loom­ing in Washington, Trump made the day trip to Philadel­phia for the sec­ond year in a row for the sto­ried game. Trump, who also went in 2016 as pres­i­dent-elect, is the 10th com­man­der in chief to at­tend the con­test.

In 2016, Army snapped Navy’s 14-game win­ning streak and has won three years in a row. But the Mid­ship­men en­tered Satur­day’s game as a sig­nif­i­cant fa­vorite. At 9-2, they ranked 23rd in the na­tion while Army’s Black Knights had a 5-7 record.

Trump was ac­com­pa­nied by Esper and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Mil­ley. The pres­i­dent was on the field for the coin toss.

The crowd cheered as Trump walked off the field af­ter the na­tional an­them. He put on a red Keep Amer­ica Great hat.

Trump emerged dur­ing the first half and sat on the Army side of the field, near the 50-yard line. There were spo­radic shouts of “Trump!” and “Let’s go Trump!” He crossed the field to the Navy side for the sec­ond half.

Trump has closely linked him­self to the mil­i­tary, pro­mot­ing in­creases in de­fense spend­ing and over­seas tri­umphs such as the Oc­to­ber killing of Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi in Syria.

The game comes amid a re­newed push by the White House to de­liver mo­ments that de­pict Trump gov­ern­ing — such as his visit to NATO in Lon­don last week and his suc­cess­ful lob­by­ing for a new U.S.-CanadaMex­ico trade deal — that it be­lieves stands in stark con­trast to the Democrats’ impeachmen­t ef­fort.

In the com­ing week, Trump is ex­pected to be­come the third pres­i­dent im­peached af­ter the House votes on charges of abuse of power and ob­struc­tion of Congress.

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