The NFL Player Taking 100% Of His Salary In Bitcoin
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Odell Beckham Jr. announced yesterday that he would be taking 100% of his new contract with the Los Angeles Rams in Bitcoin.
The process will be facilitated by Square’s mobile payment service Cash App, and as part of the announcement, the duo gave away $1 million in Bitcoin to fans on social media.
Remember: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers announced a similar partnership with Cash App earlier this month, but that was an undisclosed portion of his salary — Odell’s announcement is for 100%.
Let’s talk through a few reasons why I think these deals are interesting.
For starters, no, Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t *technically* being paid in Bitcoin.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiated between the NFL & its players’ association does not currently allow NFL teams to pay their players in Bitcoin directly — the only options are direct deposit or physical check.
Still, in most cases, the athlete is *indirectly* being paid in Bitcoin.
I don’t know the specifics of Odell’s agreement with Cash App, so I’ll use Russell Okung as an example instead, the NFL lineman who agreed to take 50% of his $13 million salary in Bitcoin last year.
Here’s how that worked: The Carolina Panthers set up account wire instructions with Zap’s payment product Strike and were instructed to send 50% of Okung’s regularly scheduled game checks into that account. From there, Strike immediately converted the US Dollar into Bitcoin and deposited it in Okung’s wallet.
It’s essentially direct deposit for Bitcoin that helps sidestep the current NFL rules.
Again, we could argue for hours whether or not this should actually count as being “Paid In Bitcoin,” but I’m not sure it matters — when the money hits the athlete’s account/wallet, they see Bitcoin, not USD.
Furthermore, Odell Beckham Jr. and Russell Okung aren’t the only athletes to do this.
Trevor Lawrence (#1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft) signed a deal with Blockfolio earlier this year and accepted his signing bonus in crypto.
Saquon Barkley announced that he would be paid 100% of his $10 million-plus annual endorsement income in Bitcoin.
Tom Brady signed a deal with crypto company FTX, receiving equity in the company and a signing bonus paid in crypto.
Aaron Rodgers teamed up with Cash App earlier this month and announced that he would be taking a portion of his NFL contract in Bitcoin.
These announcements are always controversial. Some people call them geniuses and innovative, while others quickly label them as idiots and say they will go broke.
That’s Twitter, I guess, but the reality is situated on a much more logical ground.
These crypto companies are printing cash right now. The entire market cap of all crypto assets is $2.5 trillion, up from just $375 billion a year ago. That means that if crypto were a public company, it would be the world’s 3rd largest — just behind Apple and Microsoft but ahead of Google, Amazon, and Tesla.
The result? Crypto companies like Coinbase and Cash App are doing billions of dollars in quarterly crypto revenue. At the same time, Robinhood now makes significantly more money from crypto trading than from equity trading, despite launching the product just 2-3 years ago.
That means they have a lot of marketing money to spend.
Realistically, these crypto partnerships make a lot of sense for all parties involved. Companies like Cash App, FTX, Coinbase, BlockFi, and others use them as a strategic marketing tool to expand their platform and lower customer acquisition costs.
And for athletes like Odell Beckham Jr., Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Saquon Barkley, they will collectively make hundreds of millions of dollars throughout their careers — these partnerships will end up representing just a small portion of that.
This is the example I always use: If you were told that their investment portfolio consisted of millions of dollars in stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, real estate, and more, with just 1-3% allocated toward crypto, would you even blink an eye?
The answer is no because Bitcoin is an uncorrelated asset that has historically offered asymmetric performance relative to traditional financial products. Again, sure, we can debate the short-term intrinsic value—maybe it goes up, maybe it goes down—but I think it’s intellectually lazy to claim that crypto is still not a legitimate asset class.
There are countries like El Salvador buying Bitcoin, corporations like Tesla putting it on their balance sheet, and pension funds like The Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) investing millions of dollars into the asset — these entities traditionally have a much lower risk tolerance than the individual investor.
Ultimately, all athletes will individually choose how they want to be compensated, and everyone’s risk tolerance & belief in crypto is different. However, as these exchanges continue to grow in popularity and increase their enterprise value, these cash & crypto agreements will only become more common.
I hope everyone has a great day, and we’ll talk tomorrow.
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THE JOE POMP SHOW: My conversation with Will Compton is now live!
In addition to nearly a decade-long career as an NFL linebacker, Will Compton has built the popular podcast Bussin' With The Boys.
Transitioning to the NFL
Financial education & leadership
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