In a face-to-face, the Department of Defense approved cornerback Cameron Kinley’s request to postpone his Navy commission so he could play in the NFL and end a week-long saga in which Kinley had originally been denied the chance to pursue a pro football career.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced that Kinley would be drafted into the Inactive Ready Reserve and expected to serve in the Navy after his time in the NFL ended.
“We know Cameron will use every opportunity on and off the field to represent the Navy and the military to the American people and assist us in our recruitment efforts,” Austin said in a statement. “I applaud the Navy leadership for finding this way to showcase both Cameron’s athletic prowess as well as the quality and professionalism of our student-athletes and our staff.”
Kinley, team captain and class president at the U.S. Naval Academy, had applied to postpone his five-year service after graduation this spring. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the reigning Super Bowl champions, as an unnamed free agent and participated in the rookie minicamp in May.
But the acting naval secretary, Thomas W. Harker, in June rejected the request without an explanation. The situation received national attention, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican in Florida, wrote to President Biden urging him to intervene.
Kinley repeatedly said that he eventually intended to complete his engagement, and his representatives at Divine Sports and Entertainment, in a announcement, pointed to recent allowances for football players from other service branch schools. The Army allowed Jon Rhattigan to delay his service and join the Seattle Seahawks, as did the Air Force for Nolan Laufenberg, who joined the Denver Broncos, and George Silvanic, who joined the Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s a kind of Catch-22. I know he will try to become a professional footballer, but of course he means a lot to the fleet, ”said Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians at the mandatory minicamp in June. “So I leave it to them. Would very much like him because I thought he showed promising signs when he was here. ”
Lieutenant Cmdr. Patricia Kreuzberger, the Navy spokeswoman, said Kinley filed a petition with the Board of Correction of Maritime Records, which recommended that his service commission be repealed. Harker endorsed the recommendation and forwarded it to Austin, Kreuzberger said.
Kinley thanked Rubio in a statement Tuesday; NFL Players Association President, DeMaurice Smith; and his agents for their lobbying business. Kinley, who recorded 88 tackles in the Navy, will now try to make the Buccaneers’ active roster when training camp starts later this month.
“The most valuable lesson I have learned throughout this process,” Kinley said, “is to trust his timing and remain confident that God will always prevail.”
The official policy of graduates of service academies pursuing careers as professional athletes has changed repeatedly in the last few years, with athletes required to reimburse the cost of attending their academy if they immediately play professionally without earning a waiver. Under the Obama administration, candidates could continue their athletic careers immediately if they were granted reserve status. But President Donald J. Trump in 2017 repealed this policy, only to lead the Department of Defense resume it again in 2019 after hosting the Army Football Team in the White House. Biden said in a statement Tuesday that he supported the Pentagon’s decision.
“I am convinced that Cameron will represent the Navy well in the NFL, just as he did as a standout athlete and class president at the Naval Academy. After his NFL career is over, he will continue to make us proud as an officer in the U.S. Navy. ”