Russell Okung will officially be the first NFL player to get paid in Bitcoin, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
An NFL first: #Panthers OT Russell Okung will receive half of his $13M in salary in Bitcoin. As part of a partnership with @in_strike and thanks to creative payroll solutions from the #Panthers, @russellokung will fulfill the goal he set when he tweeted “Pay me in Bitcoin!”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 29, 2020
The two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle has long been a booster of the most well-known cryptocurrency, tweeting last year that he wanted to be paid in Bitcoin.
Pay me in Bitcoin.
— russ (@RussellOkung) May 14, 2019
That wish became a reality on Tuesday, when he agreed to a 50-50 split of his $13 million salary between Bitcoin and fiat currency.
The arrangement was made possible by a startup called Zap. The company acts as a middleman between employers' pocketbooks and employees' Bitcoin wallets. Rather than the Okung's team, the Carolina Panthers paying him directly in Bitcoin, they pay Zap. Zap then converts the cash into Bitcoin and sends it to Okung using the Lightning network. Here's Okung's statement on being paid in Bitcoin, courtesy of Darren Rovell:
Okung on getting paid in Bitcoin in statement: “Money is more than currency; it’s power. 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.”
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 29, 2020
There is some worry that Okung might be facing a major loss. Bitcoin is trading at about $26000 per BTC, an all-time high and well above the cost of $7000 per BTC seen at the beginning of the year. But that rapid rise could also mean that the currency will come crashing back down to earth.
The trouble with cryptocurrency is one of belief. All currency comes down to a shared trust that the currency actually signifies real value. It's easier to put your faith in a piece of paper when it comes with the backing and guarantee of a state. However, as more and more big names go in for Bitcoin, it's possible that trust in the currency will grow. Okung is not the first NFL star to embrace crypto. 49ers defensive back Richard Sherman has sung the praises of blockchain for years.
"I had heard about the idea and the premise behind it being kind of like a universal currency — [it could] mitigate concerns about exchanges and stuff like that — and I really thought that was innovative," Sherman told CNBC in 2018. "I could appreciate that idea, and I just wanted to get involved."