NFL Players Taking It on the Chin During Bitcoin Crash

While it may be on a smaller scale than somebody who has recently lost 75-80% of their investment portfolio during the recent crypto crash, that doesn’t mean that professional athletes aren’t also feeling the pinch of the latest dip.

Pro sports are often called ‘copycat leagues’ meaning that whatever works for one team other squads try to shadow. Crypto has been on the rise in recent years as a currency and you could even use it to place bets on the latest Vegas odds, and eventually, we started to see athletes opting to have their signing bonuses paid in crypto.

At first, the idea of a pro sports star getting paid in cryptocurrency was laughed at, then were envied,  and now it’s laughed at again. After meteoric rises in BTC at the end of 2021, in June of 2022, the crypto has seen a plummet to its lowest prices since December of 2020. Let’s take a look at some of the athletes who have been affected most by the journey ‘to the moon’ falling a little flat.

Trevor Lawrence and His Signing Bonus

The major reason that athletes and their cryptocurrency investments have come to light lately is not only because of the devastating crash of the market but also because recent reports have stated that 2021 #1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars may have lost $15 million after taking his $24 million signing bonus in the form of crypto.

As it turns out, the rumors of Lawrence’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. As it turns out Lawrence didn’t take his NFL signing bonus in crypto, just some of his endorsement money when he signed with the investment company Blockfolio.

An April 2021 press release from Blockfolio announced, “this partnership marks the first endorsement deal ever in which a significant signing bonus has been paid entirely in crypto.” A reporter for USA Today took that as to mean that Lawrence was taking his NFL signing bonus in a form of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana – but it was actually just part of his Blockfolio sponsorship money that was put into the QB’s online wallet.

Lawrence himself clarified the misstatement, tweeting out to Barstool Sports (who wrote an article titled how Trevor Lawrence turned $24 million into $9 million), “Did y’all confuse my @FTX_Official signing bonus with my @NFL one? Carry on…”

So it turns out Lawrence may have survived the crypto crash – as his 4-year, $36 million deal and endorsements with Gatorade, Bose, and Adidas would also attest to. He’s hardly the only pro athlete feeling at least a little bit of a pinch during the recent dip though.

Did Okung Cash Out?

Former Seattle offensive lineman Russell Okung could be considered the godfather of the pro sports bitcoin movement dating back to when he tweeted out “pay me in bitcoin” in May of 2019. In December of 2020 that became a reality as half of his $13 million salaries with the Carolina Panthers was indeed paid out in BTC.

Okung became the first NFL player to get paid in BTC, and he definitely rode a wave. The 11-year veteran received $6.5 million worth of Bitcoin when it was worth in the neighborhood of $27,000 to dollar equivalency. At one point that value rose to $61,000 before plummeting to $20,000 in the Spring of 2022 so who knows at one point – or if – Okung cashed out on his investment.

Barkley, Beckham Among Other BTC Losers

Taking payment in BTC in 2021 and early 2022 was considered progressive, and Saquon Barkley is another NFL player that got in on what he thought was a cutting-edge technology last season. In July of 2021, Barkley announced that he would be transferring his endorsement money from Nike and Pepsi for the year – a reported $10 million – into BTC. That may have been up to a $4 million mistake for the New York running back.

Odell Beckham, Jr. is the other player on the Mt. Rushmore of NFL players who have paraded their parlay into BTC. Beckham, Jr. signed with the Rams late in the 2021 season, taking all of his $750,000 contracts in the form of Bitcoin. Beckham, Jr. may have gotten paid more from Square, Inc. just for the publicity of having a BTC transaction, and the Rams subsequent Super Bowl win reportedly earned him millions more in incentives but he’s still tied in with the Bitcoin downfall.

Time will tell if these NFL players taking payments in Bitcoin will go down as a cautionary tale. The athletes will be fine either way, let’s just hope smaller-scale investors can say the same in the upcoming months.

Photo by Kanchanara on Unsplash