Russel Okung player receives multi-million dollar salary in bitcoin

Photo Courtesy: David McBee

By DaVince “Dino” Wright

The rise of cryptocurrencies over the last year or so has to be seen to be believed. Bitcoin has breached $33,000 in January, although it has then retreated from those highs, with other cryptos such as Ethereum also seeing record rallies. This sort of volatility is not new to crypto markets, with there having been a similar increase in price during 2017. That rally was followed by a huge crash in 2018, which is what many observers and outsiders fear will happen in 2021. However, the biggest difference between 2018 and 2021 is that there are far more people who are invested in the crypto space, and many more institutions and companies looking towards cryptocurrencies and blockchain to solve many of their problems. Thus, this means that there is a lot more demand propping up the market, which reduces the risk of a crash. 

We are also seeing cryptocurrencies come into mainstream sectors, with more people looking to use them for various regular activities. Online gambling is a great example of this, where various online gambling sites have begun offering users the option to place bets by using cryptocurrencies. In 2020 any bitcoin casino with live dealer was more popular than a regular casino with both crypto enthusiasts as well as gambling fans, as they are also a lot more secure than regular gambling sites due to the use of blockchain to secure data and transactions. This is just one example of how cryptocurrencies and blockchain are slowly making their way into daily life. One of the biggest examples of this came in the NFL recently, where a player was paid millions of dollars of his salary in the form of bitcoin.

Russell Okung, a player for the Carolina Panthers in the National Football League (NFL), recently announced that he had received 50% of his $13.5 million annual salary in the form of Bitcoin, making him the first NFL player to be paid in the form of any cryptocurrency. Okung has been a supporter of cryptocurrencies for a long time, and he reportedly converted $6.5 million of his salary to Bitcoin through the Bitcoin payments app Zap. His support for Bitcoin and other cryptos comes along with criticism of the US dollar, in the face of rising inflation, as well as sustained monetary expansion by the Federal Reserve to try and cope with the effects of the pandemic, both of which are reducing the value of the dollar. This is one of the biggest arguments that proponents of cryptocurrencies cite – that fiat currencies will begin to lose value as central banks print more and more money, which makes cryptos such as Bitcoin unique since there is a fixed supply of tokens in the market, and it is not controlled by any one entity.

Of course, the NFL did not directly pay Okung in the form of Bitcoin – the player converted half of his salary to Bitcoin himself. This is still an important milestone, since it shows the confidence that he has to commit such a large proportion of his earnings to Bitcoin. He is also not the only sportsperson to show interest in Bitcoin – MMA fighters, for example, have also tweeted about buying Bitcoin, while Jack Mallers, the founder of Zap, has said that there are various NBA and MLB athletes in talks with the app to join their program as well. Of course, the rising price of Bitcoin puts it out of reach of many ordinary people, unless they are content with buying a fraction of a token, which is why interest from multi-millionaires is no surprise. However, this does reflect a growing trend with more and more people looking to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptos, for various reasons, be it to cash in on the expected rally, or since they believe that cryptocurrencies are the future of money. Either way, expect more high-profile athletes and other celebrities to come out in support of cryptocurrencies as time passes.