The NFL held its first remote draft last week as teams selected players and sports analysts analyzed their prospect for a season that may never be played. Everyone managed to stay upbeat and the broadcast was a ratings smash, since it's the closest thing we've had to an actual sporting event in over a month.
The draft seemed likely to come off with zero controversy until, that is, the New England Patriots selected Marshall University kicker Justin Rohrwasser on Saturday in the fifth round. The 23-year-old was selected to replace Patriots legend Stephen Gotkowski, who was released by the team way back in March.
All was cool until photos of Rohrwasser in his Marshall uniform hit the internet. The kicker has a prominent U.S. flag and "Liberty of Death" tattoos on his forearms but it was the "Three Percenter" tattoo near his left elbow that set the fires online.
What's a Three Percenter? Named after the rather dubious idea that only 3% of colonists rose up against the British during the American Revolution, the "III%ers" are a paramilitary group that aims to resist intervention by the Federal government in local affairs.
The group's beliefs have put it at least in close proximity to organizations and events that promote racist agendas. For example, they provided security for the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, but tried to distance themselves from the racist views promoted at the event afterwards.
Digest version: The Three Percenters have been identified as a far-right, anti-government organization by the organizations that track these groups. No one's been arrested for terrorism, but they've been aligned with groups who have.
When asked about his tattoo, did Rohrwasser defend his choice or explain his beliefs?
Nope, he claimed a tattoo that he'd sported for five years was a symbol to show his support for the United States military.
Here's one quote from the kicker:
"I got that tattoo when I was a teenager and I have a lot of family in the military. I thought it stood for a military-support symbol at the time," Rohrwasser said. "Obviously, it's evolved into something that I do not want to represent. When I look back on it, I should have done way more research before I put any mark or symbol like that on my body, and it's not something I ever want to represent. It will be covered."
He floated another explanation in a TV interview on Monday:
"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 cover it up [to reporters], but I want to get it removed from my body. It's shameful that I had it on there ignorantly."
"It was described to me as the percentage of colonists that rose up against the government of the British. 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."
Marshall is a Division 1 school that plays in front of thousands of fans in Conference USA. They've played in nationally televised bowl games each of the last three seasons. It's hard to imagine that no one has noticed Justin's tattoo before.
If he's got so many military members in his family, shouldn't Justin have gotten straightened out on its meaning when he showed them his new "military support" tattoo?
Does the kid deserve a second chance? Or, did he make an unforgivable mistake when he tried to blame "support for the military" to get off the hook for what he’s now said is a “shameful” tattoo decision?