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Players at service academies across the United States, including Army linebacker Andre Carter II, may be prevented from playing professional sports right out of school if a bill being sent through Congress is passed.
A section of the National Defense Authorization Act states that not participating in active duty service after graduation from a service academy is considered “a breach of agreement to serve as an officer,” according to Leo Shane III and Jonathan Lehrfeld of the Military Times.
The bill says a cadet or midshipman can’t be employed as a professional athlete or otherwise until they have completed their commissioned service obligation. An explanation for authorization of the bill states:
“Service academy appointments are a zero sum game. Every appointment that goes to a graduate who does not complete his or her active-duty service obligation to pursue professional athletics could have been awarded to many other qualified young people who would have happily served their country.”
Since 2019, some athletes from service academies have been able to apply to delay their active duty requirement and pursue a career in professional sports.
Carter, a 6’7″, 260-pound linebacker, is likely to be a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft. The senior’s best year came in 2021 when he posted 14.5 sacks, 41 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, one interception, two pass breakups, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 12 games.
This season, he had 3.5 sacks, 41 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two pass breakups in 10 games. The Black Knights finished the season 6-6.
If Carter can’t play in the NFL immediately, it would be disappointing since he has dreamed about playing professional football his entire life. While Carter declined to speak to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, his father, Andre, said Carter is “so upset.”
“He was literally, visually upset because of the uncertainty. He was not happy. When you’re in the military, everything is precise,” his father said. “To have something at the eleventh hour kind of thrown out there when you are so used to having a regiment; he’s in a fog about the whole thing.”
Army head coach Jeff Monken told Thamel the policy change isn’t fair to Carter, who could have left the service institution and played elsewhere:
“It’s not fair. It’s not fair to him. He was loyal to this team and institution. He could have left and he didn’t. He still wants to serve. It’s not that he doesn’t want to serve. He wants to pursue the NFL and play, and then serve.
“I’m 100 percent against it.”
If the bill is passed, players at service academies would need to complete two years of service before applying for an alternative service option. That could damage their chances of pursuing a career in professional sports.
The policy change could go into effect as soon as next week.
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