The NFL’s Russell Okung Won’t Stop Until He’s Paid in Bitcoin


After we hopped on a name final Friday, Russell Okung had simply left his final observe of the week, however he couldn’t get away with out his teammates blasting him over Bitcoin.

“Each single day,” Okung laughed over the telephone once I requested him how typically they offer him flack. Towering like a modern-day Ajax at 6’5” and 310 lbs, it’s onerous to think about anybody ragging on the two-time Professional Bowl left sort out for something, actually — except, in fact, the subject material is one thing as absurd and arcane as that Bitcoin factor.

A factor which, very seemingly, was absent from the Los Angeles Chargers locker room discuss earlier than Okung made his very public entrance into the Bitcoin ecosystem (This concerned his tweeting out “Pay me in bitcoin” on Could 13, 2019, which instantly despatched shivers of affirmation down Bitcoin Twitter’s backbone). 

Now, Okung isn’t the one NFL participant to ask for his wage in bitcoin (Buffalo Payments backup QB Matt Barkley has as properly), however he’s actually essentially the most vocal Bitcoin proponent in the NFL (sorry Matt, perhaps subsequent yr, bud). Since his (in)formal entrance into the Bitcoin sphere, Okung has made the world’s preeminent cryptocurrency a subject of dialog on each social media and inside his skilled circle. Bitcoin’s latest celeb ambassador even launched his personal occasions model Bitcoin Is _, which he advised me he views as extra of a “revival” or “awakening” than anything.

“This isn’t an occasion, it’s not a convention, it’s not a Meetup,” he mentioned. “It is a revival, man! Bitcoin appears like a renaissance, the good awakening or enlightenment, and that’s what we’re attempting to seize. There’s a whole lot of stuff we will do with Bitcoin Is__ and it’s getting a whole lot of transactions. Folks need to be part of it. The occasions we do might be this collision of tradition and affect and leisure and finance and economics. As a result of Bitcoin is for everybody.”

Its inaugural installment kicked off over Labor Day Weekend 2019, as Bitcoin vets and novices alike packed right into a lofted occasion area in downtown L.A. to be taught extra about, properly, what Bitcoin is, and what led one of many NFL’s elite blindside tackles to take a dive down the rabbit gap.

“What the Hell Is Bitcoin?”

At a pre-event media Q&A, I requested Okung how his teammates and professional circle have reacted to his recent jaunt into Bitcoin. 

“Finally, folks admire conviction,” he responded, including that, in fact, reactions are a combined bag — some jest, some say its a rip-off and a few are legitimately curious. He’s nothing if not persistent in his conviction, nevertheless, and this has warmed some skeptics.

“They’ll purchase with out telling me, and so they’ll pull me off to the facet, like ‘Hey man, I purchased some.’ And I’m like, man, inform everyone else!” he continued. “The guys that give me essentially the most crap about it are those who find yourself shopping for bitcoin,” he added later over the telephone. 

Throughout the Q&A, he additionally went into the behind-the-scenes of his “Pay me in Bitcoin” tweet, which concerned a really abbreviated assembly with Ed McGuire, the Charger’s government vice chairman of soccer administration and participant finance, or resident “cash man.”

“I requested if they might pay me in bitcoin,” Okung recalled. “With this stoic face he checked out me and mentioned, ‘What the hell is bitcoin?’”

And that was that, although Okung advised me he “asks quite a bit.” His preliminary plea came about in Could 2019, across the similar time as his tweet. This was additionally the identical time that Okung definitively “took the dive” down the rabbit gap, although he had identified about Bitcoin since 2017.

Like many people, although, it wasn’t till later that he had the “aha!” second that made Bitcoin click on for him. For Okung, whose mother and father hail from Nigeria, this second got here from visiting his ancestral house in the 2019 low season. Needing additional money after an costly evening out, Okung tapped his checking account again in the States for a wire switch, however the financial institution wouldn’t honor the request.

“My time in Nigeria was eye-opening for me,” he advised me. The financial institution refused to ship Okung his cash, and that’s when he found it wasn’t really his cash in spite of everything. This, finally, is what actually pushed him towards Bitcoin.

Cypherpunk Meets the Gridiron

That Okung would turn out to be a trailblazer for an off-the-beaten-path financial different is fairly on-brand for the NFL standout. Embellished with a Superbowl ring and a 2012 Professional Bowl look (to not point out loads of collegiate accolades), the first-round draft decide opted to symbolize himself as a free agent after his rookie contract with the Seattle Seahawks expired; this led to a one-year stint with the Broncos, his four-year, $53 million take care of the Chargers and his second Professional Bowl in 2017. Okung’s determination to go agentless, which he defended in a 2015 essay entitled “Betting on Myself,” feels a bit just like the self-reliant, maverick-punk ethos that permeates FOSS growth and Bitcoin’s tradition — in essence, a simple match.

Accustomed as he’s to the onerous knocks of the NFL’s brutal competitors, contract negotiations and staff leaping, going from betting on himself to betting on bitcoin was a pure transition.

“I believe the core idea of bitcoin has all the time resonated with me in a way,” he mentioned. “Whether or not it’s been my very own private journey understanding my funds for representing myself, writing contract negotiations in the NFL and even my position in understanding labor and the common particular person and the problems that they run into. The underlying premise of all of those interactions compound each other, as a result of all of it comes all the way down to individuality and one’s personal sovereignty and the power to be in management of 1’s personal life. I all the time thought of that, however I by no means knew what it will imply with regards to my cash. Because the outdated adage says, ‘Cash talks.’”

It certain does. And generally folks discuss for it. The extra Okung has delved into the subject on Twitter and in particular person, the extra his teammates and different mates have turn out to be curious or have come round on the subject. He wouldn’t identify names or give specifics, however he did say that “athletes are hitting [him] up on a regular basis.” 

However don’t name anticipating monetary recommendation. That’s not his place, he cautioned, saying his mission is to coach and clear up misconceptions. That is particularly essential in the world of wealth-showered athletes who typically rent monetary advisors as a result of a few of these advisors, steeped in conventional finance, see bitcoin as a ponzi scheme or rip-off.

Okung needs to drag again the veneer of this banal and inaccurate perspective. Typically instances, this furnishes a wholesome dialogue on the ideas of cash and what constitutes worth. For NFL gamers, greater than half of whom battle chapter or monetary duress after retirement, it’s vital to show them “concerning the creation in addition to the upkeep of wealth.” This, Okung mentioned, “is the important thing to attaining what they’re searching for.”

“The core theme of what I attempt to educate folks is: what does it appear to be so that you can grasp monetary independence?” he explains. “And I believe that resonates with them. There have been individuals who have utterly turned over, particularly after pushing me on the economics of bitcoin and volatility. They have been averse to bitcoin at first after which, once they understood I used to be severe about it, they begin to consider what cash really is and what its foundations are — a whole lot of these guys have modified their minds.”

Bringing Bitcoin to the Folks

Inherent in Okung’s response above is the facility of affect; the affect of a trusted pal and his earnest ardour. 

As one of many NFL’s highest-paid left tackles and now one thing of a Bitcoin celeb, Okung mentioned he acknowledges his place and “the facility of brand name and being genuine and truthful about issues that you just imagine in.”

“After I discuss it or present some degree of enthusiasm for Bitcoin, it’s nice for the ecosystem and for the common particular person to see any individual taking a stance in an space that isn’t historically pro-Bitcoin,” he continued. He added that his Bitcoin-infused Twitter presence has resulted in entertainers and different celebrities “following, liking, tweeting, retweeting and DMing” him. 

In fact, if the virus goes to unfold, we’ll want greater than Okung, Akon and Tony Hawk to sing Bitcoin’s praises (although that is nonetheless nice for Bitcoin). To Okung, that is the purpose of Bitcoin Is_: “to satisfy folks the place they’re and unpack bitcoin in a very easy approach.” 

“Bitcoin is usually a multitude of various issues to completely different folks. After we take into consideration spreading this gospel — that’s what we wish to say, that we’re spreading the gospel of Bitcoin — then we would like it to be relatable,” he mentioned. “That’s step one. We would like any particular person to know who we’re as folks. After which we will interact in a significant approach.”

The finish results of this engagement, hopefully, is a fusion of tradition and finance that can deliver Bitcoin to extra customers. To get there, although, Okung thinks Bitcoin’s present ambassadors want extra “conviction” to unfold Bitcoin past the confines of its staunchest proponents and into the fingers of everybody else.

“We speak about mass adoption, however what does that appear to be?” he asks. “Having a bunch of Meetups with a bunch of individuals I already know and who’re similar to me? That received’t work. If I might problem folks in this business, it will be getting inventive about methods to get folks concerned. Finally, if this motion is managed by the folks, then folks will come from all styles and sizes, and colours and ethnicities and genders. We would like as a lot of them as doable in order for this to speed up and final.”

Bitcoin Adoption in the NFL?

Bitcoin Is_, presumably essentially the most various Bitcoin occasion I’ve ever been to, is off to an excellent begin. For his personal half, Okung will proceed to “not solely educate folks about Bitcoin, however educate them methods to clarify Bitcoin.” On this approach, Okung lives and breathes Bitcoin Is_ day by day. As you’re studying this, he is perhaps promoting bitcoin to a few of his teammates, the Chargers’ common supervisor or the GM of one other staff. 

Actually, although. In our dialog, he mentioned he’s spoken to a couple NFL GM a couple of bitcoin wage possibility. When requested who he’s been speaking to and the way receptive they’re, he prudently pleaded the Fifth.

Hopefully, if bitcoin continues to defy the expectations of skeptics and Okung’s call-to-educational-arms with Bitcoin Is_ seems to be efficient, he received’t have to attend too lengthy earlier than he turns into the primary NFL participant paid in bitcoin — and earlier than he convinces league GMs to supply the choice to different gamers, as properly.

The publish The NFL’s Russell Okung Won’t Stop Until He’s Paid in Bitcoin appeared first on Bitcoin Journal.

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