NFL

By Drafting Kicker Justin Rohrwasser, the Patriots Gamble on a Controversial Player Once More

The Patriots are no strangers to controversial players. New England’s latest draft pick, though, might take the cake in purely symbolic terms. Kicker Justin Rohrwasser has a prominent forearm tattoo displaying the symbol of a far-right militia movement, the Three Percenters. Could this be what finally pressures owner Robert Kraft to change his talent-above-everything approach to acquiring players?

It all depends on whether we take the new kicker at his word. Let’s explore the meaning of the symbol tattooed on Rohrwasser’s arm, and whether the negative attention could even be worth it.

Who are the Three Percenters?

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Three Percenter” is an umbrella term for a loose association of far-right militia groups in the U.S. They share a hardline view of gun rights, anti-government views, and conspiracy theories about a shadow government behind the global order. The name “Three Percenter” comes from the estimated 3% of American colonists who fought against the British monarchy in the Revolutionary War.

While the name is not inherently tied to groups that engage in hate crimes or terrorism, some prominent supporters have engaged in or provided material for these activities. In 2017, reports The Oklahoman, the FBI foiled a plot by a Three Percenter splinter group to bomb an Oklahoma bank.

The same year, reports NPR, large numbers of Three Percenters showed up in support of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, which was organized by white supremacist Jason Kessler. Many Three Percenter militia members insist they do not support the racist views of Kessler and many of the groups present at the event.

How often do the Patriots associate with controversial players?

The Patriots, and by extension Kraft, aren’t exactly allergic to controversial players. If most teams shy away from a talent player due to off-the-field antics, Kraft can usually be counted on to at least give the athlete a shot. It seems to be a key part of New England’s ruthless strategy.

Consider the case of Aaron Hernandez. Even as his personal issues mounted, Kraft stood by him. This included setting up a secretive apartment for the troubled athlete in the wake of an assault charge. Eventually, as the accusations against Hernandez turned to murder, Kraft finally changed his approach and released the eventually convicted star.

Kraft was also quick to turn the misfortune of Antonio Brown’s teams into his own benefit. Brown had already racked up several public blow-ups with his teams. Worse yet, he verbally abused and threatened women. It wasn’t until Brown threatened another woman via text while working for the Patriots that they dropped the hammer on him for good.

Is kicker Justin Rohrwasser worth the controversy?

Marshall place kicker Justin Rohrwasser gets congratulated by his teammates
Marshall teammates congratulate kicker Justin Rohrwasser (C) in 2019 | Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rohrwasser is the latest Patriots player to court controversy, and he hasn’t even set foot in a regular-season game yet. But he isn’t doubling down on defending the tattoo. He claims he wasn’t aware of the negative associations.

“I thought it stood for a military support symbol at the time,” Rohrwasser told reporters on a conference call following his draft by the Patriots. “It evolved into something I do not want to represent.” This is plausible, if not entirely convincing. The Three Percenter militia movement popularized the symbol well before New England’s new kicker got the tattoo.

Rohrwasser pledged to cover up the tattoo whenever he’s on the field. Still, given his answer, it’s unlikely the controversy will cease. Kraft will have to weigh the kicker’s impact on the game with any grief the team will endure over fielding him. The former University of Rhode Island and Marshall player could be a crucial replacement¬†according to the Patriots’ draft profile.

In his final college season, he was Conference USA’s 2019 Special Teams Most Valuable Player. He’s larger than most kickers, with incredible range, albeit with the usual accuracy issues that go along with that profile. He wrapped his last run at Marshall with an 85.7% field goal percentage, according to Sports Reference. Kraft will likely keep Rohrwasser on board, in light of his skills — unless he doesn’t pan out as an elite kicker in the NFL.