There have been a few attention-grabbing legal name changes in sports (World B. Free and Chad Ochocinco stand out), but 49ers safety Donte Whitner might be the first to do it in a bit of a protest.
Whitner said he's changing his name to Donte Hitner. He has been pushing the #LegalHitner hashtag on Twitter (complete with T-shirts bearing the phrase) as the NFL tries to crack down on his hard-hitting style. He wasn't happy to get a $21,000 fine from the NFL for a hit last week on Rams receiver Chris Givens, and that seems to have given him the final nudge to change his name.
Apparently this name change is serious, too. He asked his mom for permission and everything.
Thinking about taking the W out of my last name. Mom said its ok (y'all kno I had to ask 1st lol) #NotPlayingEither
— TWHITNER (@DonteWhitner) October 1, 2013
It's official...The W is being removed from my last name from Whitner to Hitner...GM — TWHITNER (@DonteWhitner) October 2, 2013
Here was his explanation to CSNBayArea.com:
“If you ask fans around San Francisco and the Bay Area, they call me Donte Hitner anyway,” Whitner said. “I think it’s pretty cool. Everything we do is for the fans, right? We all understand that. It’s entertainment, but at the same time it’s what I do. It’s my game, along with some things that happened recently, that’s why I went with it.”
Aside from the misfortune of sounding like another infamous name from history, it might help Whitner sell some T-shirts. He's been pitching them pretty hard on Twitter.
While his name change isn't likely to change the NFL's mind about the fine, maybe he can sell enough merchandise to pay for it all.