Anthony Richardson, a University of Florida quarterback known as “AR-15” from his initials and uniform number, has announced he will adopt a less violent image as he heads into a season when he is expected to be one will be the top player in college football.
Richardson, who also sells a clothing line, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that he no longer wanted to be associated with an assault weapon used in mass shootings that have horrified the nation.
“It is important to me that my name and brand no longer be associated with the assault rifle used in the mass shooting, 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 “passed over” using “AR” or no nickname at all.
Another Richardson website, www.shopar15apparel.com, which sells T-shirts and temporary tattoos featuring a scope, broke the news Monday night that it was “no longer active.”
In an interview posted yesterday by sports media group High Top Sports, Mr Richardson attributed the decision to “talking to my team” – “you know, my management team,” he clarified – adding: “It’s a lot go ahead with AR-15s and shooting and stuff and a lot of people have called me just to talk about it and asked if I support the stuff.
He continued, “I don’t want people to think I’m that type of person.”
This summer alone there have been multiple mass shootings, 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. Both gunmen used AR-15 style rifles.
A Florida jury is now considering whether to face the death penalty on Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty to killing 17 and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He, too, used a weapon resembling an AR-15.
Representatives for Mr. Richardson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night about whether anything in particular prompted his decision.
Odds makers consider Richardson one of the top contenders to win the Heisman Trophy this season when he will be a sophomore. With acrobatic skill and a 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame, he’s capable of electrifying plays on the field, such as an 80-yard touchdown run against South Florida last season when he raced through a security.
Richardson, who is from Gainesville, home of the University of Florida Gators, appeared in a video for the Gainesville Police Department last October promoting a gun buyback program. But Richardson not only promoted gun-themed merchandise, he also appeared in at least one promotional video in which he struck a pose aiming a soccer ball like a gun.
The fact that he has a brand and management team is due in large part to the NCAA’s decision last June to allow college athletes to enter endorsement deals and find other ways to make money from them with their names and pictures to earn and their likenesses.
In October, Outback Steakhouse announced a sponsorship deal with Richardson. Around the same time, Richardson released a website whose landing page featured his AR-15 nickname, 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 website began directing visitors to gun-themed clothing in 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 merchandise featured names and images of guns and gun paraphernalia.
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.