Former Marshall kicker Justin Rohrwasser was selected by the New England Patriots in the fifth round on Saturday, came under fire for a tattoo on his arm that is a symbol that is associated with a right-wing militia group. Rohrwasser’s teammates defended him Monday and he said he will have the tattoo removed. Sholten Singer/The Herald Dispatch via the Associated Press

Brendan Knox couldn’t believe it when he saw what was happening on Twitter.

The Marshall running back saw national sports media figures call kicker Justin Rohrwasser, his teammate who had just been drafted by the New England Patriots, a racist and a white supremacist.

“I was kind of shocked. I thought it was a joke at first. The first thing I thought was, they must not really know him. In my three years of knowing him, I never got a whiff of that. Not one bit,” said Knox, who is African American. “He’s a real funny guy, never spiteful of anybody. I’ve never even seen him mad. I was completely surprised when I heard that. That can’t be right. Anyone that’s around him knows that’s the furthest thing from that.”

Rohrwasser’s Three Percenter tattoo turned the draft pick into a controversial figure Saturday as the ink featured prominently on his left forearm was noticed on the social media site.

Knox and teammate Koby Cumberlander spoke to MassLive on Monday afternoon before Justin Rohrwasser was interviewed by Steve Burton on WBZ-TV.

In that interview Monday night, Rohrwasser said he didn’t learn the organization’s connection to the neo-Nazi march on Charlottesville in 2017 until after he was drafted Saturday, and that he will be having it removed from his body.

“We were celebrating and hugging. So happy. I went on to Twitter. I saw someone posted a picture of me and my tattoo and linking me to some horrific events, obviously Charlottesville, and these horrible things,” he said. “The first time I found out what it was linked to was Saturday. That’s why it was so surprising.”

Rohrwasser said he knew where the Three Percenters got their name from but not their history.

“I got it when I was 18. It was described to me as the percentage of colonists that rose up against the British. I thought that was such an American sentiment, a Patriotic sentiment,” he said. “Coming from a military family, that really spoke to me. I always was proud to be an American. … As soon as I saw what it was linked to Saturday, I knew I had to have it totally taken off of my body. I said ‘covered up’ (during the team’s conference call with the media), but I want to get it removed from my body. It’s shameful that I had it on there ignorantly.”

His Marshall teammates were eager to dispute the accusations against Rohrwasser, and Cumberlander was proud of how the Marshall players rallied.

“For players, especially black players on the team to stick up for him in this time, it’s a perfect thing to do,” he said.

Cumberlander went on to describe his own experiences with Rohrwasser.

“He’s not a racist. Not even close,” Cumberlander said. ”When you look at Justin, he was a dude that minded his own business. He was an easy person to talk to, a really nice guy on and off the field. He never showed any racism toward anybody. It was crazy how people seemed to look at him who don’t really know him as a person. They have these preconceived notions.

“It’s very, very hurtful to see. For a really, really good guy to receive that much hate was crazy,” Cumberlander added. “I never like to see that for anyone you know. I’ve known him for two years. You can’t hate on a guy who is nothing but positive energy.”

Knox offered a similar description.

“A guy like Justin isn’t deserving of that. He should be celebrating (getting drafted), instead he’s defending himself against stupid allegations like that,” he said. “Anybody that knows him would shoot that down easily.”

Cumberlander said he never thought about or noticed the tattoo before Saturday.

“The tattoo he had is a symbol for the Three-Percenters. I did a little research,” he said. “Basically what the tattoo meant was he believes, and you’re entitled to your own personal beliefs, in your own gun rights and the second amendment.”

Rohrwasser went from so unknown that ESPN didn’t have film available of him to show right away in their draft coverage to a controversial character in minutes. The controversy was sparked by a tattoo on his left arm of the logo for an alt-right group called the Three Percenters, a vehemently pro-second amendment group that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as anti-government. They have an inconsistent history on racial issues. Their members have been anti-Islam and provided armed security during the Nazis march Charlottesville in 2017.

Rohrwasser briefly addressed the topic during a conference call with Patriots’ media Saturday, saying “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. 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.”


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