In 2019, National Football League player Russell Okung tweeted that he wanted to be paid in bitcoin. “Pay me in Bitcoin,” he tweeted. He claims to now have what he wished for. The Carolina Panther player retweeted himself on Tuesday saying that he has been paid in Bitcoin, thereby making him the first player in NFL history to be paid in digital currency, he said.
An announcement said this was made possible through a partnership with Zap, a bitcoin startup founded by Jack Mallers. Under the partnership, Zap’s Strike product, which allows people to receive bitcoin as dollars via direct bank deposits, enables the NFL player to convert his salary into cryptocurrency.
Per the arrangement, Okung’s annual salary of $13 million will be divided equally between bitcoin and fiat. But an anonymous source told TheVerge that the claim that Okung was being paid in bitcoin was misleading and that the player was still being paid in dollars. The source further explained that the 32-year-old player was merely converting his salary into cryptocurrency after he has been paid by fiat.
“Money is more than currency; it’s power,” Okung said in a statement. “The way money is handled from creation to dissemination is part of that power. Getting paid in Bitcoin is the 1st step of opting out of the corrupt, manipulated economy we all inhabit.”
On his part, Mallers praised Okung as a leader adding that he is setting a good example on a big stage. “Getting #Bitcoin in exchange for your labor is much more than meets the eye. He is setting that example on a big stage,” he tweeted.
Okung is not the first professional athlete to be involved in the bitcoin trade. According to Yahoo Finance, “unnamed members of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and baseball’s New York Yankees, have also begun onboarding to the program.” The global cryptocurrency market is valued at $575 billion. It is therefore no surprise that more and more sportsmen are getting involved in the sector.
In an Op-Ed in 2019, Okung described bitcoin as “sustainable solutions that can demonstrate that our economic power is not only real but vastly undervalued and overlooked.”
He continued: “Bitcoin is one of the few financial assets that offers sanctuary from a global recession, when it arrives. Financial advisor isn’t recommending bitcoin because they don’t make money by selling it to clients.
“The mainstream talking heads don’t mention it because it threatens their cushy industry. But we are on the precipice of something truly unique with the invention and success of bitcoin. I’m playing my role in raising awareness, shamelessly encouraging professional athletes to embrace bitcoin, and evangelizing to a mainstream audience about the opportunity we have to capture undeniable economic power.”
For him, bitcoin is a digital gold which is not under the control of one entity and allows him to seamlessly send money to relatives in Nigeria. “Bitcoin offers a way to protect that hard earned capital from the whims of central bankers who keep printing more money to bail out their friends on Wall Street. It is time for us to embrace our economic sovereignty by allocating at least 5% of our wealth into bitcoin,” he added.