In defense of Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser’s tattoos and political views

With almost no sports happening at the moment, the NFL draft last month was a huge story. In New England, a large amount of attention has focused on kicker Justin Rohrwasser from Marshall University, who was drafted by the Pats in the fifth round.

According to a profile in the Boston Globe, Rohrwasser has numerous tattoos, including an American flag, one that reads “don’t tread on me,” another that reads “liberty or death,” and another that resembles the logo of a group called the Three Percenters. This group advocates for small government, freedom of speech, and gun rights. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Three Percenters are an “anti-government group,” meaning that they “advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines.” The Three Percenters, however, have characterized themselves as “very pro-government, so long as the government abides by the Constitution.”

Additionally, on Twitter, Rohrwasser has expressed support for President Trump, Ayn Rand, and psychologist Jordan Peterson. According to one of his college coaches, Jim Fleming, Rohrwasser wore a red “MAGA” hat at school and expressed conservative beliefs, particularly about economic policies, in conversations.

What is wrong with this, you may ask? In my opinion… absolutely nothing!

Yet because of his political beliefs, Rohrwasser has been inundated with criticism online, accused of being a racist and a bigot. This is an example of self-proclaimed “liberals” displaying qualities that are the very opposite of the tolerance they pretend to espouse. Rohrwasser has done nothing wrong by having, and expressing, conservative (or libertarian, or however one wishes to characterize them) beliefs. He has every right to get a Three Percenters tattoo. He has every right to “like” and retweet whatever tweets he wants to. There is no rule that every person must have moderate, mainstream, middle-of-the-road, politically correct views. To condemn someone for having non-traditional views is the true bigotry here. This is bullying, plain and simple.

As Rohrwasser’s high school coach, John Barber, put it: “For him to be called a racist thug and a Nazi and Hitler, it just turns my stomach, because that’s not who he is. They don’t understand the full story of who he is, just want to take something out of context and destroy a kid, which wasn’t called for.”

In a pompous and self-righteous column, Bonomi Jones at The Undefeated called it “damning to multiple parties” that no one from the Pats interrogated Rohrwasser about his tattoo, and that no one in the media interrogated the Pats about this lack of interrogation. Some of the questions that Bill Belichick supposedly should have been asked include: “Do the Patriots, like some other teams in pro sports, vet the tattoos of the players they consider selecting? If so, was Rohrwasser one of those players? If not, were you made aware of his tattoo of the symbol of a militia? Had you known this, if you didn’t know, would the Patriots have selected him? Now that you know — and the public knows — do you plan to sign him?… These questions would be responsible, delicate and fair. They are also necessary.”

Really? In my opinion, neither a person’s tattoos, political beliefs, or affiliations are any of his/her employer’s business. It would be neither responsible nor fair, let alone necessary, for an employer to question a potential employee about something that is none of that employer’s business.

Making things even worse, Jones decides to make the issue about race, claiming that the treatment of Rohrwasser has been “awfully generous” because he’s white and because “groups like the Three Percenters don’t offend enough white people.” He bemoans the fact that “Rohrwasser can shrug off what looks like an affiliation with an anti-government group.”

What? Rohrwasser is being criticized and bullied, despite the fact that he did nothing wrong. This is the exact opposite of treating someone generously. It’s the exact opposite of shrugging something off. There is nothing wrong with the Three Percenters. There is nothing bad about an affiliation with an anti-government group. Any amount of people offended is too many; therefore the statement about not offending enough people makes no sense. And what does race have to do with anything?

“Treating Rohrwasser delicately and sparing Belichick completely is saying none of this is a big deal,” Jones writes.

Well, yes. It isn’t a big deal, or any kind of deal for that matter, because Rohrwasser did literally nothing wrong. And he hasn’t been treated delicately but unfairly criticized. Neither has Belichick been spared, as the existence of Jones’s column proves.

“Sports media rarely has to answer for its inconsistency and negligence on these topics,” Jones continues. “Rohrwasser gets a tattoo to make a statement, and the people who notice are treated as the problem.”

Negligence? Really? For not interrogating someone thoroughly enough about a tattoo? For not being critical enough of a person who did nothing wrong? People have a right to get a tattoo to make a statement. People have a right to have non-traditional political views. The people who have criticized Rohrwasser should be treated as the problem, because they are the problem. Criticizing an innocent person is wrong, and anyone who does this is, indeed, the problem.

Sadly, because of all the criticism, Rohrwasser promised to cover up the Three Percenters tattoo. More recently, he went further, saying that he would get the tattoo removed: “As soon as I saw what it was linked to… it was exactly that time I knew I had to get it totally taken off 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.”

Obviously, it’s his body, so he has a right to get the tattoo removed if he wants to. But it would be a shame for him to do this because of public pressure. He has every right to keep the tattoo and display it proudly if that’s what he prefers.