San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner, who has revealed he was fined $21,000 by the league for a hit during last Thursday night's victory over the St. Louis Rams, said Wednesday he's dropping the "W" from his last name.
"I actually put the paperwork in yesterday afternoon. Just waiting to get the paperwork out," he said in a conference call with the Houston media. "So from here on out until I retire, my name will be Donte Hitner, without the W."
Earlier Wednesday, he had revealed his name change in a tweet.
It's official...The W is being removed from my last name from Whitner to Hitner...GM
— TWHITNER (@DonteWhitner) October 2, 2013
Whitner also confirmed to reporters in Santa Clara, Calif., that he was changing his name. He said he'd like to get it changed on his uniform by Sunday's game but admitted that might be unrealistic.
"That's what I do. It's my last name and removing a letter makes it pretty cool," he said, adding that some fans already call him "Hitner" anyway.
The name change will not be cheap for Whitner. A league official told ESPN's Darren Rovell that NFL rules stipulate that if a player changes his name during an NFL season, he is required to purchase all the remaining inventory of merchandise with the old name that hasn't been sold.
Whitner said Wednesday he'd be willing to pay for the remaining No. 31 49ers jerseys in Nike's inventory "depending on how many there are," according to CSNBayArea.com.
"I haven't seen a whole lot around Candlestick, so I wouldn't think there should be [many jerseys in stock], unless somebody's hiding them," he said, according to the website.
The 49ers posted a preview of what Whitner's new jersey would look like on their Twitter account.
A preview of what @DonteWhitner's jersey would look like. #Hitner pic.twitter.com/Ngg2J9dLRN
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) October 3, 2013
Whitner said he had considered the name change in the offseason but that his mother wouldn't go for it.
Apparently, she has changed her mind.
"I'm forever going to be her son and her little boy, so I have to listen to what she says," Whitner said. "After all of these hits and people talking about it, I asked her again three nights ago. She said, 'I don't have a problem with it, go ahead.' So I went ahead and did it yesterday."
Whitner has been critical of the NFL's crackdown on hits and has said "it seems like on any big hit, they make the call on what the hit looks like."
The safety, who also has suggested the NFL should use replay to determine if hits warrant penalties, said his name change is a protest against the league's mandate in "the right way."
"I'm not out there head-hunting, hitting guys helmet to helmet. I want to show guys can hit hard and bring fear doing it the legal way," he said.
"This is a tough game. This is a game for grown men. When we signed up for that, we all know that. If you don't want to play football, you don't want to be physical, you don't want to be hit, don't come around guys that like to hit. That's the game of football, just do it the right way."
Whitner said he's not worried that his name change will make him a bigger target for flags and fines in the future.
"You can continue to look at me, but if I'm doing it the right way, what can you do?" he said.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who spoke Wednesday before Whitner addressed the media, was unaware of his safety's name change, but quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a fan of the move.
"It's kind of catchy ... Good change," he said.
Whitner said he was fined for his hit on Rams receiver Chris Givens in the end zone with just less than six minutes to play in the 49ers' 35-11 victory. He said he will appeal the fine because he "lowered my shoulder and went for the midsection, where the ball was."
Whitner appeared to turn his shoulder into Givens in a successful attempt to knock the ball loose. He was called for unnecessary roughness.
He has made up T-shirts with #LegalHitner on the front that he will sell to drum up support. He said he's produced about 125 T-shirts and will soon open for business.
ESPN.com Texans reporter Tania Ganguli, ESPN 49ers reporter Bill Williamson and information from The Associated Press was used in this report.