John Rocker was a pitcher for First Presbyterian Day School in Macon, Georgia. Rocker threw three no-hitters during his high-school career. He was soon drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 18th round (516th overall) of the 1993 Major League Baseball Draft.
In 1998, he was promoted to the major league club. In Rocker's first season in the Major Leagues, he was 1–3 with a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings pitched. The following year, an injury put Atlanta closer Kerry Ligtenberg on the DL, moving Rocker into the role of closer, where he was 4–5 with 38 saves and a 2.49 ERA. In 2000, he was 1–2 with 24 saves, posting a 2.89 ERA, but in June 2000, Rocker was demoted for threatening a reporter.
Braves fans were initially willing to support him; however, as Rocker received intense taunting from opposing teams' fans, his pitching performance declined. On June 23, 2001, Rocker, along with minor-league infielder Troy Cameron (Atlanta's first-round draft pick in 1997), was traded to the Cleveland Indians for right-handed relievers Steve Karsay and Steve Reed, along with cash. In Cleveland, his record that year was 3–7 with a 5.45 ERA and four saves. Rocker also played that year for the Indians in the ALDS against the Seattle Mariners. The following year, the Indians traded him to the Texas Rangers for pitcher David Elder. In Texas, he refused designation to the minor leagues. In 2002, he again struggled at 2–3 with a 6.66 ERA and was released. In 2003, Rocker signed with Tampa Bay but was released after two appearances and an ERA of 9.00.
He took the 2004 season off to recover from surgery on his left shoulder. In 2005, he signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. In April 2005, he asked New Yorkers to "bury the hatchet." After going 0–2 with a 6.50 ERA in 23 games, he was released on June 27, 2005.
For a story published in the December 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated, Rocker made a number of allegations stemming from his experiences in New York City and answering a question about whether he would ever play for the New York Yankees or the New York Mets.
I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?
During the interview, he also spoke of his opinion of the New York Mets and their fans:
Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, 'Hey, I did your mother last night — she's a whore.' I talked about what degenerates they were and they proved me right.
The interview was conducted while driving to a speaking engagement in Atlanta. The reporter, Jeff Pearlman, wrote that during the interview session, Rocker spat on a Georgia State Route 400 toll machine and mocked Asian women. Also, Rocker referred to Curacaoan teammate Randall Simon as a "fat monkey".
Although Rocker later apologized after speaking with Braves legend and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former Atlanta mayor and congressman Andrew Young, he continued to make controversial remarks. For his comments, he was suspended without pay for the remainder of spring training and the first 28 games of the 2000 season, which on appeal was reduced to 14 games (without a spring-training suspension).
In 2002, while with the Rangers, Rocker again made national headlines for his views after directing slurs towards patrons of a Dallas restaurant at which he was dining, located in the heavily LGBT-populated neighborhood of Oak Lawn.
In June 2006, Rocker defended former teammate Ozzie Guillen, at the time the manager of the Chicago White Sox, for referring to Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti as a "fag". Guillen, a native of Venezuela, claimed it was not a derogatory term and that, in Venezuela, the term only questions another man's courage rather than his sexual orientation.
"This is a free country. If he wants to use a lewd term, he should be able to use a lewd term", Rocker told the Chicago Tribune. "Can't you use a lewd term in America if you want"? Referring to sensitivity training, he was quoted as saying: "It was a farce, a way for the scared little man, Bud Selig, to get people off his ass". Rocker stated that when he attended mandatory sensitivity training he would seldom remain longer than 15 minutes. He also claimed he never paid the $500 fine that was levied against him.
In late 2006, Rocker was interviewed by the popular sports blog, Deadspin along with fitness model and then-girlfriend Alicia Marie. In the interview, Rocker discussed his "Speak English" campaign, as well as his upcoming book, Rocker: Scars & Strikes. Rocker stated that the book will not be used to try to repair his reputation, but will rather be "more conservative Republican rantings." Also during the interview, Rocker lambasted John Schuerholz, his former general manager with the Braves, calling him "a piece of shit."
In January 2013, Rocker wrote in the conservative website WorldNetDaily that the Holocaust could have been prevented if there weren't gun control laws in Germany at the time:
Absolute certainties are a rare thing in this life, but one I think can be collectively agreed upon is the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler's Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms.
In March 2007, Rocker was implicated in a steroid ring that included Applied Pharmacy of Mobile, Alabama. In December 2011, he admitted to using steroids, saying "Yeah, of course I was [using steroids]. I mean who wasn't? Let’s be honest here, who wasn't?"
Rocker made his screen-acting debut in the 2002 horror comedy The Greenskeeper as a murderous golf-club groundskeeper.
In 2006, Rocker appeared on the Spike TV network's Pros vs. Joes, a program that pits retired professional athletes against amateurs.
In August 2014 it was announced that Rocker would appear on the 29th season of the competitive reality series Survivor alongside his girlfriend Julie McGee. He was the third person voted out, finishing in 16th place after he became the center of negative attention. He was immediately recognized by some of the other players who were aware of his controversial statements. He was voted out of the game with an immunity idol in his pocket on Day 8. McGee made it to the merge phase of the game, but quit in 12th place after suffering an emotional breakdown, citing the negativity surrounding Rocker earlier in the game as one of the multiple reasons that she decided to withdraw from the competition.
In December 2011, Rocker released his autobiography, Scars and Strikes. As of 2012, he writes a column for WorldNetDaily, a conservative political site. As of 2013, he is director of public affairs for Save Homeless Veterans.