Newly-recruited New England Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser has vowed to remove a tattoo which represents a far-right anti-government paramilitary group.
The 23-year-old was chosen by the Patriots in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday and rapidly found himself embroiled in controversy over a tattoo on his left forearm.
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The tattoo represents the ‘Three Percenters’ movement, a right-wing group which advocates for gun ownership and is classified as an ‘anti-government’ organisation by civil rights watchdogs.
In an interview with CBS Boston broadcast late Monday, Rohrwasser broke down in tears as he said he was not fully aware of the connotations of the tattoo which he got when he was 18.
He had initially believed the symbol was linked to American colonists who fought the British in the American War of Independence.
“It was described to me as the percentage of colonists that rose up against the government of the British,” he added.
“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.”
New @Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser now says he's going to cover his extremist tattoo.— Kristen Clarke 866-OUR-VOTE (@KristenClarkeJD) April 27, 2020
In 2017, the FBI arrested a “Three Percenter” follower who had plans to detonate a car bomb at an Oklahoma bank.
Tattoo covered up or not, should players feel safe playing alongside him? pic.twitter.com/WiIL1xnpCL
Rohrwasser in tears apologising to family
However Rohrwasser said he soon discovered more about the ‘Three Percenters’ on Saturday as he celebrated his selection by the Patriots.
A post on Twitter pointed out the group’s involvement in a white supremacist rally which took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
“The first time I found out what it was linked to was Saturday,” Rohrwasser said.
“As soon as I saw what it was linked to, at exactly that time I knew I had to get it totally taken off my body.
“I said cover it up but I want to get it removed from my body. It's shameful that I had it on there ignorantly.
“I'm sorry for all my family that have to defend me.
“Putting them in that compromising position is one of the biggest regrets I'll ever have.
“To them I'm sorry, and I'm going to learn from this. I'm going to take ownership of it... No matter what, that's not who I am and hopefully you all will find that out.”