We thought it was a joke. It is not a joke.
"I actually put the paperwork in yesterday afternoon. Just waiting to get the paperwork out," he told reporters during a Wednesday conference call, via ESPN. "So from here on out until I retire, my name will be Donte Hitner, without the W."
Whitner said that he'd like to wear "Hitner" on his jersey nameplate in Sunday's game against the Texans, but admitted that might not be realistic.
He was right.
According to an NFL spokesman, Whitner must first legally change his name in his home state (and the league must see the paperwork from Ohio indicating this). He also must purchase any remaining unsold Nike jersey inventory that displays the name Whitner.
Whitner told CSN Bay Area that he will talk to Nike about their inventory of jerseys, and he's willing to purchase them "depending on how many there are."
"I haven't seen a whole lot around Candlestick," Whitner said, "so I wouldn't think there should be (many jerseys in stock), unless somebody's hiding them."
We sympathize with defensive players as they are put in a very difficult position when it comes to avoiding hits to the head. For hard-hitting safeties like Whitner, some mistakes are going to happen. The idea is to limit those illegal hits as much as possible. Limiting the hits will limit the fines.
Changing his name to Hitner only will put a larger target on Whitner's back.