New England Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser has said he will remove a tattoo that depicts the insignia of a rightwing militia.
Rohrwasser was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth-round of last week’s NFL draft but users on social media swiftly pointed out that he had a tattoo of the Three Percenters on his arm. The group, which advocates for gun rights, has been described as a rightwing militia. They have also been accused of advocating against immigrants, refugees and minorities.
The 23-year-old initially said he would cover the tattoo but on Monday he told WBZ-TV in Boston that he would have it completely removed. “As soon as I saw what it was linked to on Saturday, it was exactly that time I knew I had to get it totally taken off my body,” he said. “I said [I would] cover it up, but I want to get it removed from my body. It’s shameful that I had it on there ignorantly.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League describe the Three Percenters as an anti-government extremist group. Members of the group were present at the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, although the Three Percenters have subsequently said they do not support white supremacy, and are not a militia.
“We were celebrating and hugging [when I was picked by the Patriots],” Rohrwasser told WBZ-TV. “So happy. I went on to Twitter. I saw that someone had taken a picture of me and put it with my tattoo and linking me to some horrific events – obviously Charlottesville and these horrible things.”
Rohrwasser, who played college football at Marshall, said he had initially got the tattoo as he thought it was a tribute to the military.
“It was described to me as the percentage of colonists that rose up against the government of the British,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that is such an American sentiment, a patriotic sentiment.’ Coming from a military family, I thought that really spoke to me. I always was proud to be an American. I’m very proud to be an American.”
It may also be the case that Rohrwasser is aware that he had a tattoo linked with the far-right in a league where 68% of players are black.
“I’m sorry for all my [friends] and family that have to defend m,” he said. “Putting them in that compromising position is one of the biggest regrets I’ll ever have. To them, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m going to learn from this. I’m going to take ownership of it. This is not who I am. No matter what, that’s not who I am. Hopefully, you will all find that out.”
The Patriots selected Rohrwasser to replace long-time kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who the team released in March. Gostkowski had been with the Patriots for 14 seasons and won three Super Bowl titles.