Graduates of military service academies are required to serve five years of active duty after graduation, the U.S. Naval Academy’s admissions website says. Kinley said that there are currently four members from different branches of the military who have recently been able to delay their military service to play in the NFL, like Joe Cardona of the New England Patriots. He said he was “puzzled” why his request was denied. “I am very aware of the commitment that I made to service when I first arrived at the United States Naval Academy,” Kinley, who also served as class president and team captain at the Naval Academy, said. “I look forward to my career as a naval officer in the information warfare community. However, I am deserving of the opportunity to live out another one of my life-long dreams before fulfilling my service requirement.” Kinley said he hoped to have the decision overturned so he can participate with the 2021 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers this NFL season after graduating from the Naval Academy earlier this month.
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According to The Athletic, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker not only denied Kinley’s request to play in the NFL but also denied him the chance to appeal the decision. In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the Secretary of the Navy said permission to delay military service is “rare.” “Admission to the Naval Academy is an extensive and competitive process,” they said. “The mission of the Naval Academy is to develop young men and women to commission as officers in the Navy or Marine Corps.” “When students accept admission and continue their education in this program, there is an understanding and acknowledgment that they will upon graduation be commissioned,” their statement continued. “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.”