On Tuesday, multiple sources reported that former Navy captain Cameron Kinley is now eligible to try out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The reversal comes almost exactly one month after the military denied Kinley’s opportunity to live out his NFL dream.
Kinley went undrafted out of the United States Naval Academy following the completion of the 2021 NFL Draft. However, he received an invite to attend Tampa Bay’s training camp this preseason. The invite gave Kinley the opportunity to make the final roster, although there were no guarantees he would.
Yet the acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker denied Cameron Kinley’s request to delay his commitment to the military. Student-athletes in the military often receive exemptions if they’re able to earn a spot on a professional sports team. But the Navy football player’s initial request was denied.
The cornerback signed with the Bucs and even took part in some of their offseason programs. But he had to leave the team once Harker denied Kinley’s request. The military’s decision made headlines in early June. Sports analysts and fans both seemed confused by the decision and called for the Navy to reverse their stance.
NFL reporter Ian Rapoport tweeted a statement from Kinley and his agents that they released earlier today. They announced that Secretary of Defense, Retired General Lloyd Austin, granted Kinley “the opportunity to play professional football.”
Cameron Kinley Speaks Out in Hopes of Overturning Navy’s Decision
Following the military’s decision, Cameron Kinley opened up about the denial. He gave an interview to The Dan Patrick Show where he shared details about the unique situation. Kinley also took to Twitter and posted a lengthy request asking the Navy to reconsider its denial.
“Recently, I was informed that my request to delay my service in order to play in the NFL was denied by the Secretary of the Navy,” Kinely tweeted. “I have spent the past week processing my emotions, as it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away from me.”
In 2019, President Donald Trump reversed a 2017 decision barring athletes from delaying their military commissions. Unlike other athletes who benefitted from the reversal, officials did not allow Kinley to take advantage of the ruling.
“Currently, I have four other counterparts who have not been denied the opportunity to participate in the NFL,” he continued. “Jon Rhattigan (West Point/Seahawks), Nolan Laufenberg (Air Force/Broncos), George Silvanic (Air Force/Rams), and Parker Ferguson (Air Force/Jets). While I acknowledge that these men are from different branches of the armed services, it puzzles me as to why I am the only person to be denied this opportunity.”
Kinley said he’s very aware of his commitment to the Navy. Yet he’s still chasing his lifelong dream to play in the NFL.
“I look forward to my career as a naval officer in the information warfare community,” Cameron Kinley added. “However, I am deserving of the opportunity to live out another one of my lifelong dreams before fulfilling my service requirement.”