Kinley was a star cornerback for the Naval Academy who was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent but for reasons not made clear the Department of Defense has not yet agreed to allow him to start his Naval career after he finishes playing in the NFL.
This waiver is commonplace among athletes of the Army and Navy college sports organizations as that policy allowed Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2016 draft after completing a four-year run with the Midshipmen. Malcolm Perry is a more recent example and fellow attendee of the Naval Academy who was drafted in the 7th round last year by the Miami Dolphins after receiving such a waiver from the Navy under the Trump administration.
The U.S. Naval Academy player applied for the waiver, but the U.S. Navy denied his request in June. According to Sen. Rubio, the denial is an “issue of great unfairness” for such a “talented and patriotic young man.”
“I write to you, as our Commander in Chief, on an issue of great unfairness. A talented and patriotic young man, Cameron Kinley, recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, serving as president of his class,” Rubio wrote in his June 20 letter to the president. “Mr. Kinley was also a captain of the Naval Academy’s football team, where he excelled, and ultimately signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
The Senator continued, “In years past, the U.S. Department of Defense has issued many waivers to allow athletes to temporarily delay their service to our nation to pursue their professional sports dreams. Unfortunately, Mr. Kinley seems to be the exception, and without reason.”
Rubio also noting that the practice of service delays is common and has occurred recently for several other players.
“Mr. Kinley was permitted to train and participate in a Pro Day, which was hosted at the Naval Academy,” Rubio wrote. “He was also allowed to attend a Rookie Minicamp with the Buccaneers. Yet, Acting Secretary Harker denied his request for deferment without cause, and will not allow for an appeal.”
Rubio concluded by noting that Mr. Kinley is not trying to get out of his commitment to the Navy.
“Mr. Kinley is not seeking to terminate his commitment to the Navy. Far from it. He wishes to promote service to our great nation from one of the country’s largest stages. I implore you to right this wrong,” Rubio concluded. “Grant Mr. Kinley’s waiver to play in the NFL, and send a message to future academy graduates that the United States is a country where Americans can follow their dreams and be true to their commitment.”
The Buccaneers praised Kinley as a “shining example” of America.
“Cameron Kinley is an exceptional young man and a shining example of the type of high-character individuals that make our nation’s military the most elite in the world. We appreciate and support the United States Naval Academy’s position with regards to Cameron’s fulfillment of his post-graduate service commitment and remain hopeful that he will one day have an opportunity to also fulfill his dreams of playing professional football,” the team wrote in a statement.
The Naval Academy grad also put out a statement of his own.
Kinley exclaimed that “it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away.”
“I am very aware of the commitment that I made to serve when I first arrived at the United States Naval Academy. 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 added.
Kinley also took to Twitter to thank Macro Rubio for his support for taking up this issue, as he put it “not just for me, but for others that will follow.”
Several Navy football players have gone on to have success in the NFL, most notably 1963 Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, a quarterback for the Midshipmen from 1962-64. After serving a tour of duty in Vietnam, he joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969 and guided the team to a pair of Super Bowl victories.
Fox 13 Tampa Bay had also aired an segment with an in depth look in this promising athletes struggle to realize a childhood dream.