After going back and forth on this issue for several years, graduates of the military’s service academies can now delay their mandatory service and play professional sports instead, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced this week. 

Esper released the guidelines for the graduates that want to play pro sports. They must get approval from the Secretary of Defense, and then agree to eventually fulfill their military obligation or repay the costs of their education.

This new policy stems from the meeting that President Trump had in May with the Army football team after the Cadets of West Point at the U.S. Military Academy were awarded the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the best military academy football team. The Black Knights from West Point won the award for the second year in a row.

President Trump said that while attending the annual Army-Navy football game he came up with the idea to let service academy graduates defer their service to allow them to play in pro sports. 

Saying that he believed this would make recruiting for the military a little easier, the president stated, “I am going to look at doing a waiver for service academy athletes who can get into the major leagues: the NFL, hockey, baseball,” he said. “They can serve their time after they are done with professional sports.”

President Trump consulted with Defense Secretary Esper and other Pentagon officials and then gave them four months to come up with a workable guideline for this to happen.

This issue has been ongoing for nearly 75 years during which a number of servicemen excelled at pro sports: 

Glenn Davis, for example, won the Heisman Trophy while at the Army and he was also a member of those terrific West Point teams during World War II. He served for five years before he landed with the Detroit Lions in 1950. Roger Staubach won the Heisman in 1963. The Navy sent him to Vietnam where the Dallas Cowboys sent him a bag of footballs to practice with — he had to ask for another when those were shredded in a Viet Cong rocket attack. Staubach had to wait until 1969 to begin his NFL career. He went on to win the Super Bowl. Joe Bellino, also from the Naval Academy, was a Heisman winner who served for five years before briefly playing for the Boston Patriots.