Russell Okung, Panthers lineman, is first NFL player paid in bitcoin

Tom Schad
 
| USA TODAY

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In May 2019, NFL offensive lineman Russell Okung wrote on Twitter that he wanted his salary to be paid in bitcoin, a type of digital currency.

On Tuesday, he indicated that his wish had been granted.

“Paid in Bitcoin,” he wrote on Twitter.

Okung is receiving half of his $13 million base salary for the 2020 season in bitcoin, according to a news release from Strike, a company that helps users convert traditional money to the cryptocurrency. The company claims that Okung, who is now with the Carolina Panthers, is the first player in league history to receive part of his annual paycheck in the form of a digital currency.

According to the news release, Okung lobbied both the Panthers and his former team, the Los Angeles Chargers, to pay him in bitcoin before finding a solution. The Panthers ultimately paid the 32-year-old tackle in traditional currency but then passed it through Strike, which converted it to bitcoin.

An 11-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl honoree, Okung has long been an advocate of bitcoin, a type of digital currency invented more than a decade ago. The currency is exchanged using a type of public recording system called a blockchain, which eliminates the need for intermediaries like banks.

In a 2019 op-ed for Coindesk, a web site that reports on digital currencies, Okung likened bitcoin to “digital gold.”

“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.”

A first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State in 2010, Okung has earned north of $108 million in his NFL career to date, according to Spotrac. He is due to become a free agent this offseason.

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.