President Donald Trump supports this, and he’s actually serious.
I am going to look at doing a waiver for service-academy athletes who can get into the major leagues, like the NFL, hockey, baseball, and they’ll serve their time when they leave professional sports. I imagine that would make recruiting a little bit easier[.]
This is foolish. These guys got an excellent education at good engineering schools as well as a strong military and leadership training. In return for paying zilch for that education, they accepted a multi-year commitment to serve on active duty in our armed forces and to begin that service upon graduation.
Delay that service in favor of a professional athletic career? Let’s leave aside the morality of such a thing and what it says to the less athletically stellar cadets who don’t have professional sports careers in the offing. Look, instead, at the practical outcome.
A professional baseball career can last for years—a decade or more (ignoring outliers like Cal Ripken), even longer if AAA ball counts for this delay, serving as it does as continued prep for the majors and as rehab opportunities in later stages of a career (more on this in a bit).
A professional football or hockey career lasts quite a bit shorter—because of career-ending injury or accumulation of injuries. What’s the value of a soldier, airman, marine, or sailor who’s so banged up that he can no longer ply his athlete’s trade by the time he reports for active duty? Here we include that baseball player sent down for rehab. What’s the risk he poses to the soldier, airman, marine, or sailor serving beside him in a fight? What’s the additional medical cost this guy poses to the service required to wait on his appearance for duty?
How much time does such a man have left for his military career if he’s able to complete his professional sport career reasonably injury-free?
On the flip side are these two examples. David Robinson, Navy Academy grad and basketball star, served his commitment promptly on graduation and then went on to a highly successful NBA career. He needed no delay.
Napoleon McCallum, Navy Academy grad and football star, served his commitment promptly on graduation and then went on to a highly successful NFL career—until he had a career-ending injury during a Monday Night Football game. McCallum’s injury, admittedly, was exceptionally gruesome, even for a terminating one, but blown knees that end careers are common in football:
[He suffered a] ruptured artery in his left knee, and tore three ligaments, tore the calf and hamstring from the bone, and suffered nerve damage in the knee. …McCallum’s surgeon told him that there was no chance of him ever being medically cleared to play again.
How fit for military duty would McCallum have been had he had that injury before serving his commitment?
This is a bad idea that needs no further serious consideration.