Russell Okung claims to be first NFL player ‘paid in Bitcoin’ after announcing half his salary will be converted to cryptocurrency

    In an announcement on Tuesday, Okung, 32, and Strike, a mobile payments company, said that the American Football player will be paid half of his $13m (£9.9m) salary in Bitcoin.

    The announcement came 19 months after Okung tweeted: “Pay me in Bitcoin.” On Tuesday, he quote tweeted his post and wrote: “Paid in Bitcoin.”

    Coindesk, which is a news service focusing on digital currencies, reported on Tuesday that Okung will still be paid his salary in government-issued currency, but Strike will then convert half of the direct debit from the Panthers into Bitcoin.

    After the money has been converted by Strike, it will be held in Okung’s cold storage wallet, which is not connected to the internet and is safe from any hacking attempts, according to CBS News.

    Anonymous officials from both the Panthers and the NFL confirmed to The Verge on Tuesday that Okung will still be paid in US dollars like the rest of the league’s players. They confirmed that Okung will be converting half of his money to Bitcoin after he has been paid, and not as a deal with the NFL.

    Bitcoin, which was introduced in 2008, is a form of cryptocurrency that can be sent from user to user without the need of a central bank.

    Bitcoin reached a new trading high of $27,000 (£19,846) this week, meaning that Okung would receive around 240 coins at that value, according to CNBC.

    The cryptocurrency’s value has risen dramatically over the coronavirus pandemic, but because the trading value of Bitcoin has fluctuated wildly over the past 12 years it may not be a safe investment.

    In the announcement on Tuesday, Okung said that he has been attempting to convince the Panthers and his previous team, the Los Angeles Chargers, to pay his salary in Bitcoin for the last two years.

    He claimed that “money is more than currency; it’s power,” and added: “The way money is handled from creation to dissemination is part of that power.

    “Getting paid in Bitcoin is the 1st step of opting out of the corrupt, manipulated economy we all inhabit.”

    Strike, which was founded by Jack Mallers, the CEO of Bitcoin startup Zap, tweeted about the announcement, saying: “Russel is a leader.”

    Mr Mallers added: “Getting #Bitcoin in exchange for your labor is much more than meets the eye. He is setting that example on a big stage.”

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