When Russell Okung announced that he wanted half of his $13 million salary paid to him in Bitcoin, the sports world sat up and took notice.
Okung, along with fellow NFL player Matt Barkley, first made a request to be paid in Bitcoin back in 2019. Both of their requests, at the time, were denied.
Pay me in Bitcoin.
— OKUNG (@RussellOkung) May 14, 2019
But what’s more is that, Okung had a series going called “Bitcoin Is,” which broke down the ins and outs of the then-revolutionary cryptocurrency. And while there’s still no shortage of scams and misinformation about the crypto world out there, Okung’s commitment to seeing crypto as the wave of the future has remained unwavering.
“Money is more than currency; it’s power,” said Russell Okung in a statement. “The way money is handled from creation to dissemination is part of that power. Getting paid in bitcoin is the first step of opting out of the corrupt, manipulated economy we all inhabit.”
Ultimately, it took until December of 2020 for the NFL to honor his request to be paid in Bitcoin. Back then, AfroTech reported that Okung became the first NFL player to be paid in bitcoin. However, that was thanks to some revolutionary accounting and a partnership.
According to CNBC, Okung received 240 BTC, but the NFL insisted that the league “pays in dollars, [and] what the players or his agents do with the money is up to them.” Therefore, to be clear, Okung’s arrangement with the NFL meant that they took $6.5 million of his salary and diverted it to a bitcoin company called Zap. Zap’s Strike then took a fee and purchased 240 BTC on Okung’s behalf, CoinDesk reports.
So, how did this deal work out for Russell Okung, nearly one year later? Let’s take a look.
Well, first. Who is Russell Okung?
Initially getting his start in football at Oklahoma State University, Russell Okung — who is currently a free agent — has played football for the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, and Carolina Panthers.
Why Did He Request Half of His Salary in Bitcoin?
To be clear, Russell Okung didn’t directly get 240 BTC from the NFL. Instead, they diverted half of his salary to Strike, which purchased the Bitcoin on Okung’s behalf.
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
How is That Working Out for Him?
In March 2021, AfroTech reported that Russell Okung’s decision to take half of his salary in Bitcoin made him one of the richest players in the league.
“At the time of Okung’s payment in December, Bitcoin’s dollar equivalent was roughly $27,000. It’s since jumped to $58,914.70, dropping slightly after reaching an all-time high of $61,000 last week,” reported Audacy.
The outlet went on to further explain that Okung’s 240 BTC payment is, as of today’s writing, worth more than $14 million. When the remainder of his cash salary of $7.5 million is factored in, that means the initial $13 million is now worth more than $21 million. So, overall, it worked out well for him.
Paid in Bitcoin. https://t.co/Ey6oOcmLjA
— OKUNG (@RussellOkung) December 29, 2020