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SANTA CLARA -- Pro Bowl 49ers safety Donte Whitner, who was fined $21,000 for what the NFL determined was an illegal hit, invested an additional $27 in a legal name change this week.
“Yeah, it’s legal,” Whitner said. “I’m taking the ‘W’ off. H-I-T-N-E-R.”
That’s right. His new legal name will be Donte Hitner, and he hopes to have it become official with his new name on the back of his 49ers jersey for the team’s Oct. 13 game against the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park.
“I hope so,” he said. “I have my fingers crossed.”
Whitner said Wednesday he has thought about a legal name change for some time. All he needed was approval from his mother, Deborah, to make it legal. Deborah Robinson plans to change her name back to Whitner, her maiden name, Donte said.
It's official...The W is being removed from my last name from Whitner to Hitner...GM— TWHITNER (@DonteWhitner) October 2, 2013
“I asked my mom,” he said. “She said no in the summer. And she said, 'yes' three nights ago. It’s pretty cool.”
Donte said his uncle, recently released from prison, helped convince her to allow the name change.
“My uncle just came home and he pretty much convinced her,” Donte said. “He was there for me as a little boy and he went away for awhile in prison. We talk all the time.
“He said, ‘This is the National Football League, you’ve always had a dream to do this and your name coincides with what you like to do on the football field. I think taking $27 and taking a letter off your name is worth it.’”
Donte said his Ohio-based lawyer filed the paperwork on Tuesday to make the name change official.
He said there will be talks with Nike about their inventory of No. 31 uniforms with “Whitner” on the back. He said he would be willing to pay for the soon-to-be-obsolete jerseys -- “depending on how many there are.”
Said Donte, “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.”
The change of name is ultimately giving the fans what they want, he said.
“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.”
He was penalized 15 yards two weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts for a hit that was ruled illegal. But the NFL reviewed the play and did not fine Whitner -- an indication that official Terry McAulay’s crew missed the call.
Whitner was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness on Thursday night due to a shoulder-to-helmet hit on St. Louis Rams wide receiver Chris Givens that broke up a potential touchdown pass. The NFL fined Whitner $21,000. He has appealed the fine.