Quarterback known as ‘AR-15’ changes nickname, citing mass shootings

Anthony Richardson, a University of Florida quarterback known as ‘AR-15’ for his initials and uniform number, announced he’s embracing a less violent image as he heads to a season in which he should be one of the best players. in college football.

Richardson, who also sells a clothing line, wrote on Twitter Sunday that he no longer wanted to be associated with an assault weapon used in mass shootings that horrified the nation.

“It’s important to me that my name and brand is no longer associated with the assault rifle that was used in mass shootings, which I do not condone,” he wrote on Twitter. The message became the only content on the home page of his personal website.

He added that he was “moving” to using “AR” or no nickname at all.

Another Richardson site, www.shopar15apparel.com, which sold T-shirts and temporary tattoos with a crosshair, posted a message late Monday saying it was “no longer active.”

In an interview published yesterday by sports media group High Top Sports, Mr Richardson attributed the decision to “talk to my team” – “you know, my management team”, he clarified – and added “There’s a lot going on with AR-15s and shooting and stuff, and a lot of people have reached out to me just to talk about it, asking if I support this stuff.

He continued, “I don’t want people to think I’m that kind of person.”

This summer alone, several mass shootings have taken place, including at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, and at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, where a gunman killed 10 black people in a racist attack. The two gunmen used AR-15 type rifles.

In Florida, a jury is now considering whether to impose the death penalty on Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty to killing 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He too used a gun resembling an AR-15.

Representatives for Mr. Richardson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday evening whether anything in particular prompted his decision.

Bettors consider Richardson among the top hopes of winning the Heisman Trophy this season, when he’ll be a sophomore. With acrobatic dexterity and a 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame, he’s capable of electrifying plays on the field, like an 80-yard touchdown against South Florida last season in which he hit a security.

Richardson, who is from Gainesville, home of the University of Florida Gators, appeared last October in a video for the Gainesville Police Department promoting a gun buyback program. But in addition to promoting gun-themed merchandise, Richardson has also appeared in at least one promotional video striking a pose in which he aims a soccer ball like a gun.

That he has a brand and a management team is largely a function of the NCAA’s decision in June of last year to allow college athletes to enter sponsorship deals and find other opportunities. to earn money from their names, images of them and their likenesses.

In October, Outback Steakhouse announced a sponsorship deal with Richardson. Around the same time, Richardson posted a website whose landing page emphasized his AR-15 moniker, according to the Wayback Machine, a website that hosts an archive of the Internet.

“It’s a blessing for us to be able to make money,” Richardson told Forbes last October. “It teaches us how to manage money and understand the business side of things. It also allows us to help our families in ways we couldn’t before.

Richardson’s site began directing visitors to gun-themed clothing around January.

Earlier this month, the Dallas Cowboys drew criticism on social media when they announced a partnership with Black Rifle Coffee, a coffee company whose merchandising featured gun names and images. and firearm accessories.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.

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