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Navy May Reverse Field on McCallum, Robinson

March 26, 1987|WILLIAM GILDEA | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — James H. Webb Jr., nominated to be secretary of the Navy, is known to be considering a reversal of the decisions by outgoing Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. to allow former Navy running back Napoleon McCallum to play professional football and All-American David Robinson to play professional basketball.

Webb, who faces confirmation by the Senate, is known to believe strongly that military service after graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy does not constitute a part-time job, and he believes that playing professional sports while on active duty is inappropriate.

He has indicated a desire to rescind the previous decisions on McCallum and Robinson and to prohibit similar arrangements in the future.

Webb declined to comment, saying it is inappropriate because he has yet to be confirmed.

Last August, McCallum was given permission to play for the Raiders as long as it did not interfere with his duties as a supply officer on the U.S.S. Peleliu. He spent his rookie season as a kick returner and substitute running back.

Al LoCasale, Raider executive assistant, said: "We've always said that the arrangements between Ensign McCallum and the United States Navy have been and will continue to be just that--between them. We haven't been a party to those discussions. His availability is something that they will have to work out. We'd like to have him back. He played a considerable role for us last year, much more so than anyone had expected because of the injury to Marcus (Allen)."

Dick Berthelsen, general counsel of the NFL Players Assn., said that, if a representative of McCallum contacts the union regarding the potential rule change, "We'll do anything we can to help him out."

In January, the Navy classified Robinson unfit for unrestricted naval duty because he is 7 feet 1 inch. Instead of five years of active duty at sea after graduation this June, he would serve two years of "restrictive" active duty, then four years as a reservist.

Lehman's decision was based on Robinson being too tall to serve in an unrestricted capacity "aboard ships, aircraft or submarines," according to a Navy spokesman. The decision appeared to enable Robinson to be available either for the 1988 U.S. Olympic basketball team or possibly the 1987-88 National Basketball Assn. season. He was expected to be the first pick in this year's NBA draft.

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