Bitcoin's meteoric rise has made Russell Okung one of the NFL’s highest-paid players


Free agent Russell Okung made an unusual request while playing for the Carolina Panthers last season, asking to convert half his $13-million salary into Bitcoin. The Panthers obliged, making Okung the first athlete in a major American sport to be compensated in cryptocurrency.

Investigative journalist Scott Chipolina revisited this transaction in a story for Decrypt earlier this week, and the financial figures he encountered were staggering to say the least. At the time of Okung’s payment in December, Bitcoin’s dollar equivalent was roughly $27,000. It’s since jumped to $58,914.70, dropping slightly after reaching an all-time high of $61,000 last week.

Let’s get out our calculators, shall we? In December, $6.5 million of Okung’s salary was converted to Bitcoin, which computes to about 240 BTC. Now valued at $58,914.70 each—a stunning 118-percent increase—Okung’s 240 BTC is now worth an estimated $14.1 million. That’s already a $7.6-million return on investment and the recent crypto boom would suggest there’s plenty more where that came from. Okung’s average salary ranks 14th among NFL tackles, though if you tack on the $7.6 million he’s made from Bitcoin in the past three months, the 32-year-old would jump to fourth on that list.

Bitcoin’s day-to-day volatility still makes it somewhat of a risky investment, but after seeing Okung make a fortune off it, perhaps others in the sports realm will follow suit, requesting payment in BTC in lieu of traditional currency.

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