Bill clears NFL draft path for Army star

After an outcry over future Army star linebacker Andre Carter II, politicians scrambled to change the language of a bill recently passed by Congress that paves its way into the upcoming NFL draft.

The new language, which was formally introduced Tuesday morning as part of year-end legislation, will restore the opportunity for Carter and other current Army, Navy and Air Force academics to defer military service to pursue professional sports.

A provision was included in the blanket appropriations measure, expected to pass this week, to make Carter and other current Academy seniors eligible for a waiver allowing longstanding exceptions to the 2019 decision that allowed deferred service to play professional sports. That ruling appeared on the Senate appropriations website Tuesday morning.

A bill passed by the Senate last week would overturn that ruling in 2019. Carter, projected by ESPN’s Mel Kipper as the 22nd pick in next year’s NFL Draft, finished the final regular season game of his career on Dec. 10. It applies only in connection with a cadet or naval officer who is enrolled for the first time at the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy, or the United States Air Force Academy on or after June 1, 2021.”

Shortly after the publication of an ESPN report on Friday that revealed the disappointment of the Carter family and military officials about the timing of the ruling and its impact on Carter, a bipartisan effort began in earnest in Washington to figure out a way to remove Carter from the ruling. The new language provides an exception for Carter and others who went to the Army and other military academies expecting to be allowed to defer service.

The wording, which is added to the much larger overall appropriation measure, can be passed and approved by the president as soon as Friday. The inclusion of the new language sent a wave of relief to the Carter family.

“Thank you to the members of Congress who so urgently stepped up, spoke up, and acted in support of Andre and the service academy students and other Navy SEALs who made decisions depending on the 2019 policy allowing for deferrals of service,” Carter’s parents, Melissa and Andre, wrote in a text message to ESPN. “The good we saw in people last week will be imprinted on us forever.”

Carter is poised to be the most highly recruited player in the military in more than half a century. Carter is universally regarded as a top 50 draft prospect, which would make him the highest-scoring player from the academy since 1947.

Carter said he chose not to transfer after leading the country in sacks per game in 2021 in part because of a policy passed in 2019 that allows academies athletes to pursue professional athletics immediately upon graduation and defer their service requirements.

The Carter family was concerned that not only would he have to leave the military without graduating, but also paying the government $400,000. Carter had already “confirmed” with the Army, meaning that after two years he committed to serving and paying any tuition costs if he did not graduate.

Army coach Jeff Monkin, former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Carter’s parents spoke to ESPN last week about the unfairness of the referee’s timing with Carter on the cusp of professionalism.

Sources tell ESPN that word of Carter’s story spread quickly in Washington on Friday, catching the attention of top Pentagon officials and members of Congress like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Richard Shelby.

A source familiar with the legislation said: “It is not normal for an issue to be highlighted and after less than 10 days there is a chance for a bill to pass through the House and Senate and get a presidential signature so quickly.”

Carter committed to play in the Senior Bowl and will be a scout in the NFL, and he promises to be one of the most interesting stories in the draft.

“We are grateful for the support, time and energy of the leadership of the US Military Academy, Long Gray Line, and the many others around the country who lent their expertise and influence to a speedy resolution,” Carter’s parents told ESPN.

While this is an important short-term exception for Carter and others, passage of the bill still looms as a major hurdle for the Army, Navy, and Air Force football programs, which compete at the sport’s highest level and already have a significant following. headwind.

A broader question posed by Carter’s position: Is it wise to have a handful — maybe one in each academy — of players who are professionally drafted each year and enjoy the publicity, or have a policy that honors the importance of military service but forfeits that publicity?

This initial bill was introduced by Mike Gallagher, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin’s 8th district. While the pressure surrounding Carter’s situation prompted Gallagher to quickly support the amended language, he remained strong about the bill’s passage.

“The US Military Service Academies exist to produce fighters, not professional athletes,” Gallagher said in a statement to ESPN last week.

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