As deadly mass shootings persist in the United States, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson is disassociating himself from the assault rifle frequently seen at the center of the violence.
The rising sophomore announced on Sunday that he's seeking to drop his "AR-15" nickname and eliminating gun-themed imagery from his apparel line. He announced the shift on social media.
"After discussions with my family and much thought, I have decided to no longer use the nickname 'AR-15' and the current apparel line logo, which features a scope reticle, as part of my branding," Richardson wrote. "While a nickname is only a nickname, and 'AR-15' was simply a representation of my initials combined with my jersey number, it is important to me that my name and and brand are no longer associated with the assault rifle that has been used in mass shootings, which I do not condone in any way or form.
"My representation and I are currently working on rebranding, which includes the creation of a new logo and transitioning to simply using "AR" and my name Anthony Richardson."
What spurred Richardson's decision?
Richardson arrived at Florida as a four-star recruit and saw limited action as a redshirt freshman last season. He's expected to take over the starting role as a sophomore in the fall. While he wrote that his nickname "was simply a representation of my initials combined with my jersey number," the association with the rifle was intentional and displayed in the scope imagery emblazoned on his apparel line.
Branding is a driving force behind Richardson's decision as his agent Deiric Jackson told the Orlando Sentinel last week that he was considering the shift.
“We are in discussions right now about what to do,” Jackson said. “Anthony does not want his name to be associated with gun violence in any way.”
As the presumed starting quarterback of one of college football's most visible programs, Richardson has been active on the NIL market. Darren Heitner, who represents Richardson alongside Jackson, told Forbes last year that he intended to sign only six- and seven-figure endorsement deals. It's not clear how much Richardson has actually signed for, but he's so far inked deals with Outback Steakhouse and a local Dodge dealership in addition to his apparel line.
Richardson has also used his likeness to promote gun safety. He appeared in a Gainesville gun buy-back promotion in 2021 encouraging residents to dispose of their firearms in exchange for gift cards.
AR-15-style rifles have been used in some of America's most deadly mass shootings, including the Uvalde, Texas, massacre in May that saw a lone gunman kill 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school. Gunmen have also used AR-15-style rifles in mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Las Vegas and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, among others.