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Navy prevents Buccaneers rookie Cameron Kinley from playing in NFL

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony on May 28, 2021, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Navy football player Cameron Kinley presented a gift to Harris after her speech at the ceremony. File Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony on May 28, 2021, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Navy football player Cameron Kinley presented a gift to Harris after her speech at the ceremony. File Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

June 7 (UPI) -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley's request to delay his U.S. Navy commission to play in the NFL was denied Monday.

Divine Sports and Entertainment, which represents Kinley, said the Navy is requiring him to commission as an ensign, and he isn't allowed to appeal the decision. The agency said no reasoning was provided for the Naval Academy's decision.

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The 22-year-old Kinley, who was a team captain at Navy and class president, signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent and participated in the team's rookie minicamp. The Naval Academy granted Kinley permission to take part in that minicamp.

"As a Naval Academy graduate, football player, and decorated combat veteran I understand Cameron's commitment," Divine Sports and Entertainment co-founder Ryan Williams-Jenkins said in a statement Monday. "I also understand there are ways he can fulfill his commitment while representing the Navy and playing professional sports.

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"I played with three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Cardona, who still serves our country as a Navy reservist. If there is a directive and precedent allowing other service academy athletes to pursue this opportunity, what makes Cameron different?

"It is important to note that this could have a long-term impact on his mental health going forward. He wants to fulfill both of his childhood dreams, playing in the NFL and honorably serving his country."

Kinley's agency also pointed out players from other service academies who were allowed to forgo their commissions to play in the NFL, naming West Point's Jon Rhattigan, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks, and the Air Force's Nolan Laufenberg and George Silvanic.

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Laufenberg joined the Denver Broncos, and Silvanic went to the Los Angeles Rams.

Kinley said in a statement Monday afternoon that he has "spent the past week processing my emotions, and it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away from me." He also said he hopes the decision will be overturned soon.

After the Navy reached its decision, Kinley -- who is from Memphis -- penned a letter to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and asked for her help in approaching the Naval Academy to reverse the verdict.

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"I am well aware and embrace the commitment that I made to serve when I arrived at the Naval Academy and am not asking to set aside that commitment," he wrote in the letter. "Instead, I want to represent my country and the Navy as an NFL player just as other players have been able to do.

"... If allowed to pursue an opportunity in the NFL, I will use that platform to promote service, respect for the armed services, and show young men that they can succeed in the most demanding professions, no matter their background."

Kinley graduated from the Naval Academy last month and extended a gift to Vice President Kamala Harris after her speech during the graduation ceremony.

In 2019, then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo at the insistence of former President Donald Trump that opened the door for athletes at service academies to delay military service to play professionally after graduating.

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