'Issue of great unfairness': Sen. Rubio calls for Navy commission delay to allow Bucs rookie to play

Senator Marco Rubio has penned a letter to President Joe Biden asking for Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agent Cameron Kinley to live out his NFL dreams.  

In early June, Kinley’s request to have his commission delayed was denied by the U.S. Navy, in which Rubio described it as an "issue of great unfairness," adding that Kinley is a "talented and patriotic young man."

"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," Rubio wrote in the letter. "Unfortunately, Mr. Kinley seems to be the exception, and without reason."

Last month, Kinley graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He was president of his graduating class and the first athlete to have that title since 1991. Being in the Navy and serving his country is a dream that Kinley has had for a long time. 

Mobile users can read Sen. Rubio's letter here

Kinley had signed a free-agent contract with the Bucs and had played well during a rookie minicamp, leading him to put in a request to have his commission delayed. This is a common request for athletes to make so that they can pursue a career in professional sports. However, Kinley’s request was denied with no way to appeal the decision. 

Rubio said, "previous administrations have enacted policies that would allow athletes from the Navy, Air Force and Army academies to delay their commissions to live out their dreams of playing a professional sport."


Photo: Cameron Kinley (Credit: Naval Academy)

The Florida senator noted that four other academy graduates received a waiver to play in the NFL. 

"These athletes serve as incredible role models for our youth- service members who share a love of country on and off the field," Rubio wrote, asking Biden to "right this wrong."

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"Grant Mr. Kinley’s waiver to play in the NFL," Rubio requested, "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."

After the Navy announced their decision, Captain J. Dorsey with the U.S. Navy told FOX 13 that the Naval Academy is an "extensive and competitive process," and there is an understanding that students will be commissioned after graduation.

"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," he said in a statement. "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."

"Following discussions with senior Department of Navy leadership and in accordance with existing Department of Defense policy, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker, declined to forward requests from recent Naval Academy graduates to the Secretary of Defense, seeking to delay their commissions," he added.

In a statement to FOX 13, the Bucs organization said:

"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."