Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung boasted on Tuesday that he is now receiving half of his $13 million NFL salary in Bitcoin. The arrangement involves Okung using a startup that converts payroll direct deposits into cryptocurrency and comes as Bitcoin shatters new price records.
Okung used Twitter to declare he was being “paid in Bitcoin,” framing the development as a fulfillment of a 2019 wish.
The price of Bitcoin currently floats around $28,000—a once unthinkable mark for the digital currency, which surpassed the $20,000 milestone for the first time only two weeks ago. Bitcoin is famously volatile and has experienced numerous dramatic crashes, including in 2018 when it dropped to around $3,000 after hitting $19,000 months before.
But Okung is hardly the first professional athlete to embrace digital currency. During the 2017 bull run, for instance, boxer Floyd Mayweather suggested he would change his nickname from “money” to “crypto.” Meanwhile, the CEO of Zap—the startup that arranged Okung’s Bitcoin deposits—told the trade publication CoinDesk that members of the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets have asked him about being paid in Bitcoin too.
Like many other Bitcoin boosters, Okung has claimed the cryptocurrency is superior to traditional currencies because governments can’t deflate its value.
Athletes are not the only converts to Bitcoin who have helped to define the current rally. In the last year, major companies like PayPal and Square have embraced the currency, as have billionaire investors like Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones. This marks a change from 2017, when the traditional corporate and financial world largely shunned cryptocurrency.
For Okung, the personal triumph of being “paid in Bitcoin” may offset a professional disappointment: His Carolina Panthers are 5-10 and officially eliminated from the upcoming NFL playoffs.
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