University of Florida's Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson announced he will no longer use the nickname “AR-15” and will change his apparel line's branding because of the rifle's use in bloodshed across the U.S.
Richardson, a sophomore from Gainesville, Florida, said Sunday the nickname combined his initials and his jersey number, but now he'll simply go by "AR" or his full name.
“It is important to me that my name 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,” he said in a statement on social media.
He also runs an apparel line with a logo that featured a scope reticle as part of his branding.
“My representatives 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,” he said.
The decision comes after several high-profile massacres that have claimed dozens of lives, with shooters often wielding the semi-automatic rifle or its clones.
The AR-15 has become a controversial symbol in the national debate over gun violence and gun rights. Both Armalite, the company that first made the AR-15, and the family of its late creator, Eugene Stoner, have said the weapon was developed and intended for warfare.
In the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead, the shooter used an AR-15 style weapon. In the July Fourth parade attack in Highland Park, Illinois, the gunman used a high-powered rifle that dispersed, “high-velocity rounds similar to an AR-15,” Chris Covelli, spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, said.
On Sunday, a suspected gunman carried two AR-style rifles, a pistol and more than 100 rounds of ammo when he opened fire inside Greenwood Park Mall, outside Indianapolis, Indiana, killing three and injuring two, authorities said.
2022 has been a bloody year with 354 mass shootings recorded in the U.S. as of Monday so far, according to a count by the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.
In the wake of the Uvalde tragedy, President Joe Biden called on Congress to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, stating that after the ban ended and "those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled."