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Russell Okung to Be 1st NFL Player Paid in Bitcoin; $6.5M of Panthers Salary

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2020

Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung (76) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Brian Blanco/Associated Press

The Carolina Panthers will pay half of Russell Okung's $13 million contract for 2020 in Bitcoin, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The two-time Pro Bowler signaled his desire in May 2019 to be compensated in the form of the popular cryptocurrency and confirmed he got his wish Tuesday:

russ @RussellOkung

Paid in Bitcoin. https://t.co/Ey6oOcmLjA

Okung hasn't been shy about Bitcoin:

russ @RussellOkung

The world has never needed Bitcoin more.

russ @RussellOkung

Some are in Bitcoin to be another version of Wall Street, I’m in it for radical sovereignty.

russ @RussellOkung

So many purchase Bitcoin to become cash rich, I bought it to be free from cash.

He also appeared to reference the decision in a post on his Twitter account Tuesday:

russ @RussellOkung

I’m freeing myself from fiat. You can too.

The 32-year-old is the first NFL player to have a portion of his contract paid out in Bitcoin, but he isn't the first from a major American sports league to explore the idea.

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie told Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium in May he would hold a fan vote on his next team if a GoFundMe campaign he set up raised more than $24.6 million in Bitcoin.

Prior to that, ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz wrote how Dinwiddie was looking to set up a Professional Athlete Investment Token, which would allow somebody to invest in him and his financial upside as one would a traditional stock.

Okung, working as his own agent, signed a four-year, $53 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. He's in the last year of his deal and due to become a free agent in 2021, which will allow him another opportunity to collect a big payout, potentially in the form of digital currency.

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