Panthers Offensive Tackle Russell Okung Receives Half of Salary in Bitcoin

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Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung will receive $13 million in salary in 2020, but the veteran lineman won't receive his paycheck in a conventional form.

Okung confirmed on Tuesday he will receive half of his 2020 salary in Bitcoin, becoming the first player from any major U.S. sports league to receive a salary via the electronic currency. So how exactly will Okung get his $6.5 million in Bitcoin? The process is a bit complicated.

The Panthers partnered with the Bitcoin platform Zap in order to split Okung's 2020 salary, per CoinDesk's William Foxley. Carolina will reportedly deposit $6.5 million into Zap's "Strike" product, which will then swap the salary for Bitcoin. That money will then be sent to Okung's virtual wallet, completing a wish Okung noted one year ago.

"Professional athletes committed themselves to becoming elite workers in their industry, investing significant human capital to earn their place in society," Okung wrote in a  CoinDesk column in December 2019. "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." 

Okung could be the first of numerous athletes to receive salary via Bitcoin, per Zap founder Jack Mallers. Players from both the Brooklyn Nets and Yankees have reportedly shown interest in using the product, though it is unclear whether such a payment plan would be approved by the NBPA or MLBPA. 

Okung was selected with the No. 6 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and 2013 Super Bowl champion.