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Panthers' player Russell Okung to become first NFL player paid in Bitcoin

Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung will be the first professional athlete in any U.S. league to receive Bitcoin as a form of payment.
Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung gestures during an NFL football camp practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

WASHINGTON — NFL Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung will be the first player to be partly paid in Bitcoin.

In May of 2019, he tweeted asking to be paid in Bitcoin. On Tuesday, he confirmed that he will indeed be paid by the digital currency.

"Paid in Bitcoin," he tweeted.

Okung, who is had a $13 million salary in 2020, will receive half of it in Bitcoin, according to a press release from Strike, a company that helps users convert traditional money to the cryptocurrency. He will be the first professional athlete in any U.S. league to receive Bitcoin as a form of payment.

“Money is more than currency; it’s power,” the two-time Pro Bowler said in a statement. “The way money is handled from creation to dissemination is part of that power. Getting paid in Bitcoin is the first step of opting out of the corrupt, manipulated economy we all inhabit.”

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NFL Network said Okung's U.S. dollars paycheck will go into an account that's controlled by Strike. There it will convert to Bitcoin before going to Okung.

HOW DOES BITCOINS WORK?

Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not tied to a bank or government and allows users to spend money anonymously. The coins are created by users who “mine” them by lending computing power to verify other users’ transactions. They receive bitcoins in exchange. The coins also can be bought and sold on exchanges with U.S. dollars and other currencies. Some businesses also accept bitcoin, but its popularity has stalled out in recent years.

HOW BITCOINS ARE KEPT SECURE

The bitcoin network works by harnessing individuals’ greed for the collective good. A network of tech-savvy users called miners keep the system honest by pouring their computing power into a blockchain, a global running tally of every bitcoin transaction. The blockchain prevents rogues from spending the same bitcoin twice, and the miners are rewarded for their efforts by being gifted with the occasional bitcoin. As long as miners keep the blockchain secure, counterfeiting shouldn’t be an issue.

HOW BITCOIN CAME TO BE

It’s a mystery. Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by a person or group of people operating under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin was then adopted by a small clutch of enthusiasts. Nakamoto dropped off the map as bitcoin began to attract widespread attention. But proponents say that doesn’t matter: The currency obeys its own internal logic.

In 2016, An Australian entrepreneur stepped forward and claimed to be the founder of bitcoin, only to say days later that he did not “have the courage” to publish proof that he is. No one has claimed credit for the currency since.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung gestures during an NFL football camp practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)