Carolina Panthers' Russell Okung has become the first NFL player to be paid partly in Bitcoin. The football star has agreed to receive half of his $13 million salaries in bitcoin through Bitcoin startup Zap. Technically, Okung is still being paid in fiat, although, the salary checks are now sent via direct deposit to Zap, a startup that converts fiat paychecks into Bitcoin. The NFL player’s yearly salary is now being split 50-50 between Bitcoin and fiat.
Zap founder Jack Mallers, who is also a friend of Okung, told CoinDesk that other pro athletes including members of both the Yankees and Brooklyn Nets have also joined the program. He also revealed that the NFL and NFL Players Association had to be involved to get approval for the split payment for Okung.
Zap’s Strike product enables traditional paychecks to be converted into BTC. To put it simply, Strike will receive the direct deposit from Carolina Panthers, and then swap the dollars for Bitcoin. Those Bitcoin will then be sent to a cold storage wallet held by Okung.
Okung has been a long-time Bitcoin proponent and also encourages other professional athletes to embrace it as a way to give them economic power. The athlete revealed in various interviews that he has long been frustrated with the lack of economic power of professional athletes particularly Black athletes. Okung believes that Bitcoin is a way of regaining one’s financial independence
Last year, in an opinion piece on CoinDesk, Okung expressed his views on the digital currency, saying: