Another U.S. Athlete Is Moving Away from 'AR-15' Nickname After Mass Shootings

Lakers player Austin Reaves said he's dropping his "AR-15" nickname days after Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson announced the same

Florida Gators QB Anthony Richardson ; Lakers player Austin Reaves
Photo: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty; Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty

In less than a week, two prominent U.S. athletes said they will distance themselves from a nickname linked to a weapon used in mass shootings.

In an interview with ESPN, Los Angeles Lakers player Austin Reaves said he was "open to new ideas" for nicknames after fans have referred to him as "AR-15," a play on his initials and No. 15 jersey number. But, the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle has been used in a number of tragedies, including a mass shooting that led to the deaths of 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas, in May.

"I don't condone any gun violence that happens around our country," Reaves told the outlet. "But you can't really control what [nickname] people give you. I mean, I didn't come out and say my name was that."

The 24-year-old also said he was looking to drop the "Hillbilly Kobe" moniker some fans have given him, saying that it's "[probably not] the best thing in the situation that's going on, with [Kobe Bryant's] passing."

Reaves' comments come just days after Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson said he would no longer use the same "AR-15" nickname.

"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 brand are no longer associated with the semi-automatic rifle that has been used in mass shootings, which I do not condone in any way or form," the 21-year-old said on his website and Twitter on Sunday.

An AR-15 rifle was also used in shootings at Florida's Pulse Nightclub in 2016, Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida in 2018, and a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in May.

As part of the decision, Richardson said he was also creating a new logo for his personal branding and dropping an image of a scope reticle, a device used when aiming rifles, that has been used on some of his apparel.

Reaves, who made his NBA debut with the Lakers in October, said he was "happy" to see Richardson drop the nickname.

"I want him to use his voice," Reaves told ESPN. "Everybody should be able to speak freely on what they believe. I feel like more people need to take stands like this and say what they're really feeling because that's how you get things brought up. That's how you pose questions to raise eyebrows and look into things. So, I'm happy for him and wish him nothing but the best."

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Richardson and Reaves are not the first professional athletes to have gun-inspired nicknames. Basketball fans often referred to former NBA player Andrei Kirilenko as "AK-47," a reference to his initials and No. 47 jersey number, and longtime Utah Jazz guard Pete Maravich is commonly known by his nickname, "Pistol Pete."

Famously, Washington's NBA team changed its name from the "Bullets" in the late 1990s after then-owner Abe Pollin felt he did not want the franchise to be associated with gun violence.

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