Russell Okung: From NFL Superstar To Bitcoin Educator In 2 Years (#GotBitcoin?)
NFL star and left tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers Russell Okung has hosted a Bitcoin (BTC) conference to boost knowledge and adoption of the cryptocurrency. Russell Okung: From NFL Superstar To Bitcoin Educator In 2 Years (#GotBitcoin?)
Speakers at the event, hosted in Los Angeles on Sept. 1, included Bitcoin developer Jimmy Song, Morgan Creek Digital Assets co-founder Anthony Pompliano, eToro analyst Mati Greenspan and crypto podcaster Peter McCormack.
A 2017-Esque Embrace?
Some Twitter commentators have responded with barbed scepticism to Okung’s swift conversion into a cryptocurrency advocate: one characterizing it as “the most 2017 thing” in reference to the hype surrounding the sector ahead of its historic bull season in winter 2017.
Yet others believe that the enthusiasm of such a high-profile NFL player can bring valuable media attention to the sector and spread awareness of Bitcoin among a mainstream audience.
This is alluded to in the event’s byline, which declares that “the mission of Bitcoin is mainstream adoption.”
Participant Mati Greenspan summarized key points from Okung’s talk, in which the sports star revealed that his family’s history and experience of banking restrictions in Nigeria had catalyzed his awareness of the need for individuals to have financial autonomy. Okung told McCormack:
“When Someone Asks Me ‘What Is Bitcoin?’ I Always Answer ‘What Is Freedom?’”
In his introduction to the event, Okung has written that he is planning to host further events and collaborate with various brands and innovators to promote the vision of Bitcoin creator Satoshi. “Global economic revolution is the goal,” he states.
This spring, Cointelegraph ran an analysis piece exploring the positive impact — and potential pitfalls — of celebrity endorsements of the cryptocurrency industry, from sports superstars to Hollywood actors. Russell Okung: From NFL,Russell Okung: From NFL,Russell Okung: From NFL
What Bitcoin Means for Athletes Like Me
I’ve recently become the “bitcoin guy” in the locker room, complete with both ridicule and intrigue. My teammates are understandably curious about why I’m suddenly so into this “magic internet money” called bitcoin. The truth is, long before I tweeted “Pay Me in Bitcoin,” I’d become increasingly exhausted by constant struggle, endless conflict and the frequent absence of hope.
These days, I’m more interested in finding a solution that can be immediately implemented without first gaining permission, or proving my abilities (again), or articulating the worthiness of my peers to skeptics. As leaders, we have so much more to offer society than a few hours of weekly entertainment. I am hungry for long term, sustainable solutions that can demonstrate that our economic power is not only real, but vastly undervalued and overlooked.
Bitcoin is that solution. Allow me to provide some background on this and then I’ll explain why I believe so strongly in bitcoin.
By this point in my professional football career, I’ve learned that economic power isn’t as straightforward as simply having money. Optics and circumstances often dictate how economic power is understood and how it’s wielded. For instance, winning the lottery may put $100 million in your bank account, but it doesn’t suddenly make you a financial expert. Similarly, being born into wealth may give you unearned financial freedom, but your peers will be skeptical of that wealth until you demonstrate an aptitude to steward it properly.
I am puzzled when the financial circumstances of professional athletes, especially black athletes, are viewed with optics similar to the lottery winner or the silver-spooner. It’s confusing when our economic power isn’t more naturally compared to the traditional entrepreneur who demonstrated the same gumption and exerted similar energy in their own field with dedication, sacrifice, long hours and a hyper-focus on the end-goal.
Bitcoin is a direct threat to that economic power. In fact, one of the main reasons that bitcoin hasn’t fully captured the mainstream consciousness is because it’s a direct threat to the current order. In other words, those who currently sit at the top of the socioeconomic hierarchy of our world are not incentivized by the inevitable success of bitcoin. Conversely, there are many who will see their fortunes significantly reduced as global economic turmoil continues to escalate, the dollar continues to weaken, and inflation reaches levels not previously imagined.
“I’m playing my role in raising awareness, shamelessly encouraging professional athletes to embrace bitcoin”
Bitcoin is one of the few financial assets that offers sanctuary from a global recession, when it arrives. Financial advisor isn’t recommending bitcoin because they don’t make money by selling it to clients. The mainstream talking heads don’t mention it because it threatens their cushy industry. But we are on the precipice of something truly unique with the invention and success of bitcoin. I’m playing my role in raising awareness, shamelessly encouraging professional athletes to embrace bitcoin, and evangelizing to a mainstream audience about the opportunity we have to capture undeniable economic power.
Bitcoin is like digital gold. No one entity owns it or controls it. It is a scarce asset, which means there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins in existence. It has a proven 11-year track record that is unmatched by any Silicon Valley unicorn. 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. For me, it means sending money to a relative in Nigeria without asking for approval from anyone else. Imagine an economy that doesn’t require you to share all your personal details before making a purchase. Imagine a retirement plan that isn’t built on a foundation that is “too big to fail.”
Professional athletes committed themselves to becoming elite workers in their industry, investing significant human capital to earn their place in society. Bitcoin offers a way to protect that hard earned capital from the whims of central bankers who keep printing more money to bail out their friends on Wall Street. It is time for us to embrace our economic sovereignty by allocating at least 5% of our wealth into bitcoin. I’m personally much more invested in the asset, but my goal here is to simply get you off of zero. Of course, I want to see the price go up, but I gain nothing else by trying to make you a believer. I just think it is important to let you know now, so you don’t blame me down the line when the price skyrockets and the global recession is no longer deniable.
Panthers’ Russell Okung Becomes First NFL Player To Be Paid In Bitcoin
“Pay me in bitcoin” has come true for National Football League player Russell Okung. Some 20 months and a 273% price increase after he first tweeted that demand in May 2019, Okung will be the first player from any major U.S. sports league to be paid in bitcoin.
Okung’s just happens to be quite large. His $13 million yearly salary is being split 50-50 between bitcoin and fiat, Mallers said Monday in a phone interview with CoinDesk.
Mallers said other pro athletes, including unnamed members of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and baseball’s New York Yankees, have also begun onboarding to the program. Mallers said the NFL and NFL Players Association had to be involved to get approval. It is unclear if such approvals are also required for the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
How Strike Works
Technically speaking, Okung is still being paid in fiat. Behind the scenes, however, is Lightning Network magic: Strike receives a direct deposit from his team, the Carolina Panthers, and then swaps dollars for bitcoin. That bitcoin is then sent to a cold storage wallet held by Okung, Mallers said. (To recap, Lightning is a secondary system for sending bitcoin in a cheaper and quicker fashion compared to using the Bitcoin network itself.)
Strike, which launched in private beta about a year ago, can connect to any bank account via a routing number, according to Mallers. Square’s Cash App worked in a similar manner by partnering with Lincoln Savings Bank and Sutton Bank before Square received a banking license in March.
The Okung announcement also serves to tease another bit of news from Zap. Strike can now be used as a checking account through partnerships with two yet-to-be-named banks, according to Mallers.
Mallers said Strike is now processing into the “seven figures” of monthly volume and expects that number to grow as more big names join Strike’s newest payment method. Strike does not currently receive any cut for processing payments, Mallers said, but it might as the product gains adoption.
“It’s a big, big deal that we found a way to allow any individual to receive a [percentage] of their labor in bitcoin,” Mallers said.
As Okung expressed in a recent CoinDesk op-ed, the lineman’s journey to bitcoin began long before that May 2019 tweet. The 32-year-old Okung said he has long been frustrated with the lack of economic power professional athletes – particularly Black athletes – currently hold. Okung views bitcoin as a means of regaining financial independence and has launched an advocacy project in that vein.
NFL Player Russell Okung Isn’t Getting Paid In Bitcoin; This Is What He’s Doing Instead
Various news outlets reported that a portion of Okung’s $13 million salary is being paid in BTC. It’s not true.
National Football League player Russell Okung is a strong proponent of Bitcoin (BTC). And while he may be converting a portion of his salary into BTC, his employer, the Carolina Panthers, isn’t paying him in virtual currency — although a few excitable crypto-focused publications were foxed by the story.
A spokesperson from the Carolina Panthers confirmed to Cointelegraph that Okung, like the rest of his teammates, is paid in dollars only. What he chooses to do with the money is his business, the spokesperson said. In other words, the player doesn’t have any agreement with the team to receive compensation in the form of BTC.
Offensive tackle Okung is currently in the final year of a four-year contract and will earn $13 million this year, according to Spotrac.
The NFL player is reportedly using a crypto startup called Strike to convert some of his earnings into Bitcoin. A beta version of the application, which claims to allow users to “send money instantly, with no fees, anywhere in the world,” is available for iOS, Android and Chrome.
Okung may have contributed to the confusion in a recent tweet proclaiming that he is being “Paid in Bitcoin.” The tweet was a response to a post from May 2019 when he first expressed his desire to get paid in BTC.
Paid in Bitcoin. https://t.co/Ey6oOcmLjA
— russ (@RussellOkung) December 29, 2020
It’s not entirely clear whether Okung intended to show that he’s getting paid in Bitcoin or to promote the crypto startup with the following tweet:
Do it, now. pic.twitter.com/9eAJxcBxLi
— russ (@RussellOkung) December 29, 2020
The NFL star has amassed a large following on Twitter due to his celebrity status and Bitcoin evangelism. His Twitter headline reads, “life liberty, and #bitcoin.” His followers include Michael Saylor and Anthony Pompliano, among other crypto proponents.
His recent tweets promote the idea of buying Bitcoin and educating citizens on the impact of inflation on the buying power of the U.S. dollar.
You can make “x” a year and watch it slowly erode with inflation or you can protect your hard earned money with #bitcoin
— russ (@RussellOkung) December 30, 2020
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