Navy Denies Football Player's Request to Delay Service and Play in the NFL

A former Navy football player has been denied his request to delay his commission in order to play in the NFL. According to Divine Sports and Entertainment, Thomas W. Harker, Secretary of the Navy, denied Cameron Kinley's request after spending rookie minicamp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kinley also doesn't have the ability to appeal the decision.

"As a Naval Academy graduate, football player and decorated combat veteran I understand Cameron's commitment," Divine Sports and Entertainment co-founder Ryan Williams-Jenkins said in a statement per CBS Sports. "I also understand there are ways he can fulfill his commitment while representing the Navy and playing professional sports. I played with three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Cardona, who still serves our country as a Navy reservist. If there is a directive and precedent allowing other service academy athletes to pursue this opportunity, what makes Cameron different?"

Kinley released his own statement on the situation, stating he has "spent the past week processing my emotions, as it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away from me." He also said he "hopes that this situation will soon be overturned and that I can get back to competing on the field and representing the U.S. Navy."

The Department of Defense barred players from delaying their commissions in 2017. The policy was reversed in 2019 and some players were allowed expectations. Kinley wrote a letter to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee for help in getting the Navy to reverse its ruling.

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"When students accept admission and continue their education in this program, there is an understanding and acknowledgment that they will upon graduation be commissioned," Captain Jereal Dorsey, spokesman for the acting secretary of the Navy, wrote in a statement. "Every Midshipman attends on the same terms and each has the same responsibility to serve. Exceptions to that commitment to serve have been rightfully rare. Following discussions with senior Department of Navy leadership and in accordance with existing Department of Defense policy, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker, declined to forward requests from recent Naval Academy graduates to the Secretary of Defense, seeking to delay their commissions."

Kinley signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. He was the team caption at Navy and was also the Naval Academy Class President. Playing the cornerback position, Kinley finished the 2020 season with 26 tackles, one interception and five pass breakups.