Carolina Panthers' Russell Okung Becomes First NFL Player to be Partially Paid in Bitcoin
Photo Credit: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Super Bowl Gospel

Carolina Panthers' Russell Okung Becomes First NFL Player to be Partially Paid in Bitcoin

Bitcoin is taking over the cryptocurrency world, and now it’s made its way to the National Football League.

In May of 2019, previous Los Angeles Chargers player Russell Okung indicated via Twitter that he’d like to receive his yearly salary in digital currency — Bitcoin to be exact.

Today, the Carolina Panthers’ offensive tackle confirmed that his request has finally been granted  after quoting his original tweet stating, “Paid in Bitcoin.”

According to a press release from crypto startup Zap and its Strike product, Okung will be receiving half of his $13 million base salary in bitcoin for the 2020 season. Thus, making him the first player in league history to accomplish such a feat, USA Today reports.

The news release also shares Okung lobbied both the Panthers and his former team to pay him in bitcoin before finding a compromise. The Panthers reportedly paid him in traditional currency and then passed a portion of his salary through Strike to convert it into bitcoin.

Okung — an 11-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl honoree — has been a long-standing advocate of cryptocurrency, referring to it as “digital gold,” according to a 2019 op-ed for CoinDesk.

“No one entity owns it or controls it,” he wrote. “… Bitcoin is undermining the status quo of intermediaries: no more banks, no more money managers, no more governments telling you what you can and can’t do with your money.”

Okung further proved his stance on cryptocurrency stating Bitcoin offers professional athletes an alternative method to financial independence, and a means to protect their hard-earned assets and capital from central bankers.

“It is time for us to embrace our economic sovereignty by allocating at least 5% of our wealth into bitcoin,” he concluded. “I’m personally much more invested in the asset, but my goal here is to simply get you off of zero.”

Okung’s solo announcement also serves as a teaser to more bitcoin news from Zap. According to founder Jack Mallers, Strike can now be used as a checking account through partnerships with two yet-to-be-named banks, CoinDesk shares.

Mallers also reveals that Strike’s capabilities are a huge shift for the cryptocurrency market and people who wish to receive their compensation via digital currency.

“It’s a big, big deal that we found a way to allow any individual to receive a [percentage] of their labor in bitcoin,” he told CoinDesk.

Okung’s historic accomplishment has now made it possible for other athletes to explore financial freedom via cryptocurrency.