Russell Okung is one of the most fierce offensive tackles in the National Football League, with a reputation for pancaking oncoming rushers, run blocking and protecting his team’s quarterback. Okung has carved up a nice decade-long career in the NFL since he was drafted No. 6 overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, with accolades that include a Super Bowl championship and two Pro Bowl appearances.
All of this is fine and dandy, but what’s really interesting about Okung is his finances — and we’re not talking about his $13 million per year contract, but rather what he does with it.
Specifically, about half of it is paid in Bitcoin. (More specifically, this $6 million goes to Strike to purchase Bitcoin investments.) Okung has actually been after payment in bitcoin for about two years before only recently part of his salary was officially diverted to cryptocurrency. And perhaps this is all for good reason, as Bitcoin has continued to ascend to new market highs. At the time of this writing, bitcoin was trading at about $28,000 – and that reflected a dip from when it was trading at north of $30,000 in the early days of the new year.
Now it’s worth repeating that Okung isn’t paid directly in bitcoin. As we mentioned above, part of his salary is diverted to Strike, which presumably makes transactions for Okung. But this does beg the question: Will Okung be the last person to request at least part of his earnings in bitcoin – both in professional sports and elsewhere?
What’s noteworthy about Okung’s arrangement is the only two parties that had to agree to it were he and his employer, currently the Carolina Panthers. The NFL didn’t have to sign off on it, nor did the NFL’s Player’s Association. In fact, Strike recently stated that it’s currently involved in talks with more professional athletes and their teams about a similar arrangement.
But while Bitcoin is trading high, this investment-type payment isn’t without its risks. The key word here is “investment.” Okung is taking about half of his salary in bitcoin, which can ebb and flow with the market. If he were paid conventionally, that money is essentially guaranteed and can be deposited directly into his bank account. It’s a safer take than betting on the market. This is especially true for individuals that don’t fully understand how Bitcoin works.
However, Bitcoin has become a hot type of cyber currency as the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the global economy.
The bottom line is that Okung is unlikely to be the last athlete or any type of working professional that works out this type of agreement. And whether such an agreement will pay off depends on the market. Market experts can’t even agree about whether or not Bitcoin has long-term financial benefits. If you want to play it safe, stick with a check. But if you’re willing to gamble and take your chances on some of your salary, Bitcoin could be an attractive avenue.