Donald Trump continued his new tradition of staffing his administration with the ultra-rich by announcing his plans to nominate the billionaire financier and owner of the NHL's Florida Panthers, Vincent Viola, to be his secretary of the Army, the New York Times reported.
Viola has an extensive Army background. He went to West Point as well as the U.S. Army Airborne, Infantry and Ranger Schools. He served in the 101st Airborne Division, making it to the rank of major before retiring. The Sun Sentinel outlined the ways his Army years have influenced his team ownership since buying the Florida Panthers in 2013:
He’s hired fellow West Point alumni into high positions throughout the organization — including Caldwell and co-assistant general manager Eric Joyce, who are both Army veterans and served in Iraq.
The Panthers have also paid homage to the armed forces in several ways. They made preseason trips to West Point two of the past three years and incorporated nods to the military into their uniform redesign this offseason.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Viola helped to found the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
In a statement, Viola said, "A primary focus of my leadership will be ensuring that America’s soldiers have the ways and means to fight and win across the full spectrum of conflict." One way of interpreting that vaguely-worded statement is that Viola's tenure may involve pushback against the Pentagon's recent changes allowing women to serve in combat and allowing soldiers to be openly gay. There has already been widespread speculation about whether a Trump administration would be able to roll back these changes. Trump has been hostile to the idea of women in combat, and the Republican party's platform explicitly calls to exclude women from combat roles.
If Viola is confirmed, he will still own the Panthers. However, according to the Sun Sentinel, he will name minority owner Doug Cifu to head Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, the team's parent company.