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Future Jaguar Trevor Lawrence is the next athlete to be paid in crypto

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Trevor Lawrence is going crypto.

Trevor Lawrence is going crypto.
Image: AP (Shutterstock)

Still think cryptocurrency is just a fad?

Today, Trevor Lawrence, the future No. 1 draft pick, just signed one of his first endorsement deals with Blockfolio, a crypto app. The company already paid Lawrence’s “significant” signing bonus in cryptocurrency.

On Thursday, Lawrence is expected to be the first pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But that’s not all. Sean Culkin, a reserve tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, announced that he will be converting 100 percent of his base salary to Bitcoin, the first athlete to do so.

Culkin told Deadspin he believes more athletes will make the digital leap. “I think you’re going to start to see it happening. I don’t know how fast it is going to go, but you might start seeing athletes pop up here or there,” he said.

A few years ago, Culkin took a finance internship the summer before his senior year. The price of Bitcoin then? Around $750. At the time, the Mizzou senior was intrigued by Bitcoin’s deflationary nature, but not convinced to invest.

“Wow,” he remembers thinking, “I wonder what could happen.”

Well, despite recent drops, one Bitcoin is currently valued over $50,000 and rising.

After the internship, Culkin didn’t take a job on Wall Street. Instead, he opted for a career in the NFL. Now, five years into his tenure, the undrafted tight end will be the first NFL player to be paid fully in the cryptocurrency.

“Bitcoin is something that has captivated my interest and passion like no other thing, honestly, on a personal standpoint,” he says. “In certain times in your life, you have opportunities where through conviction and knowledge, you can make a high concentrated position. And based off my current wealth that I’ve had over the course of the year and my future expenses and just my risk parameters, I felt [like] I want to take this opportunity and put a hundred percent of this salary into something that I’m so passionate about.”

Culkin’s $920,000 base salary will be paid by the Chiefs in U.S. Dollars and automatically converted to Bitcoin via the Strike by Zap app.

Culkin, who in addition to playing in the NFL is an MBA student at Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, says he sees no tax incentives for transitioning his entire base salary to cryptocurrency and he isn’t concerned with volatility — he thinks the digital asset will “rise over time.”

Culkin is also, as far as he knows, the first American athlete to be fully paid in Bitcoin.

In December, Russel Okung became the first NFL player to get partially paid in Bitcoin. The offensive lineman, who makes $13 million dollars a year, split his salary between U.S. currency and cryptocurrency.

“That was a lot of money,” Culkin says of his former teammate’s decision. “With me, it’s relative.” The tight end is playing for the league minimum, making under a million dollars a year. But Culkin and Okung could be setting a financial trend for athletes to follow. “Somebody’s got to take [our examples] and be like, there’s something here.”

And there is. Sports teams, too, are interested in the digital currency. The Sacramento Kings recently announced that they will pay their staff in Bitcoin if requested. And you can purchase Dallas Mavs merch and tickets via the coin, too. NBA Top Shot is also wildly popular.

But crypto’s reach will go well beyond sports, of course. Culkin thinks the digital currency could benefit athletes, corporate America, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and even minimum wage workers alike. “I think it could eventually help those that don’t have investable assets that just continue to suffer through the wealth gap widening.”

You may think Culkin is crazy or you may want to hire him as a financial advisor. Either way, he doesn’t really care. He knows he’s probably going to get blowback from blowhard sports writers and financial hounds for his personal decision, but that’s part of the gig. As a football player, he’s used to the scrutiny.

“I focus on me,” he says. “I focus on doing the right thing.” And for him, that’s getting involved in Bitcoin. He also wants you to consider it, too.

“I hope to inspire people to just research and decide for themselves,” the football player says. “If I can encourage somebody just to type in on Google ‘Bitcoin’ and spend an hour learning about it… at least they took the time to do their own due diligence.

“That’s what I hope to have happen from this.”

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