Clifton Park native and Patriots pick Justin Rohrwasser calls far-right tattoo ‘shameful’

Clifton Park native and New England Patriots draft pick Justin Rohrwasser told a Boston television station on Monday night he’ll have removed  from his left arm a controversial tattoo associated with a right-wing militia group.

Rohrwasser appeared emotional in a a video conference with WBZ-TV as he apologized to his family for having to defend him for bearing the insignia used by the “Three Percenters.” The tattoo gained national attention and social-media criticism after Rohrwasser, a kicker for Marshall University, was drafted  in the fifth round by the Patriots on Saturday.

Rohrwasser, who is a Catholic Central graduate who starred for Holy Trinity’s team, said in a conference call with New England media on Saturday he was going to get the tattoo covered, but went one step further in the WBZ interview.

“I want to get it removed from my body,” Rohrwasser said. “It’s shameful that I had it on there. I’m sorry for all my family to have to defend me. Putting them in that compromising position is one of the biggest regrets I’ll ever have, so to them, I’m sorry. I’m going to learn from this … and know that no matter what, that’s not who I am and hopefully you’ll all find that out.”

Rohrwasser did not immediately return a phone call on Tuesday morning, nor has he answered several messages since being drafted.

Rohrwasser again insisted in Monday’s interview he didn’t understand the full meaning of the tattoo until this weekend. He said he got the art on his left forearm when he was a freshman at the University of Rhode Island. That appears to be supported by an photograph on his Instagram account that shows him with the tattoo in December 2015, but not in another picture three months earlier. He has since locked his Twitter account.

He said the tattoo was never an issue during the two years he spent at Marshall after transferring from URI.

“The first time I found out what it was linked to was on Saturday, and that’s why it was so surprising,” he said. “When I was 18, I got it, and it was described to me as the percentage of colonists that rose up against the authoritarian government of the British. I was like, wow, that’s such an American sentiment, a patriot sentiment. I come from a military family and that really spoke to me and I always was proud to be an American. I’m very proud.”

That assertion that only three percent of American colonists took up arms against the British government is a “dubious historical claim,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which labels the Three Percenters as an anti-government group. The Anti-Defamation League says the Three Percenters logo, the Roman numeral III, has “become very popular among anti-government extremists.”

The Three Percenters state on their Web site they are not a militia and not anti-government. Their stated goal is to “rein in an overreaching government and push back against tyranny.”

There were members of the Three Percenters present at the rally that erupted in violence in Charlottesville, Va. three years ago. Rohrwasser said he was reminded of those events when he was drafted on Saturday.

“We were celebrating and hugging and so happy,” he said. “I went on to Twitter and I saw that someone had taken a picture of me and my tattoo and had linked me to horrific events, obviously Charlottesville and these horrible things.”

Former URI football player Mike Curry, who spent two years with Rohrwasser, described him as a “great teammate” who was talkative and friendly with everyone.

“I don’t really know about tattoos or any of that stuff,” Curry said. “I do know that Justin is a great guy and I don’t think he’s any of the things that people are calling him on the Internet.” • 518-454-5509 • @MarkSingelais

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