Cryptocurrency is not yet a widely accepted substitute for fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. But some high-profile names in politics, entertainment and sports might be helping to change that by accepting some or all of their salaries and bonuses in crypto.
The reasons behind this choice vary from individual to individual. Some view getting paid in cryptocurrency as an investment in the future price appreciation of the asset class, while others see it as a way to publicize cryptocurrency. Still others view it as a way to break free from the oversight of the federal government. Whatever the reason, it’s generally wise for only the wealthy to commit to receiving a salary in cryptocurrency, because it involves enormous risks.
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Most Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and their budgets are built around the regular salaries they receive. But, if you were to receive your wages in cryptocurrency, you could never anticipate how much your check would actually be. Within literal moments of receiving your pay, its value might drop by 10%, 20% or more.
Although you may get lucky and see the value of your paycheck rise, perhaps even dramatically, the risk of getting paid a significantly smaller amount than you anticipate can wreak havoc on your personal budget. In some cases, you might even have to file bankruptcy. That’s not the type of risk most Americans should be taking with their primary source of income.
For wealthy celebrities, politicians and sports figures, however, taking some or all of their pay in cryptocurrency can simply be a way to have fun or to speculate on an exciting new asset class. Here are some of the most prominent public figures that have publicly disclosed that they would take some or all of their salary in cryptocurrency.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers QB
Crypto pay: Portion of salary
On Nov. 1, 2021, Aaron Rodgers made headlines when he tweeted “I believe in Bitcoin & the future is bright. That’s why I’m teaming up with Cash App to take a portion of my salary in bitcoin today.” While the exact amount of his payment was not disclosed — and the statement was made as part of a promotional campaign for Cash App — Rodgers is one of the most well-known celebrities to get paid with Bitcoin.
Eric Adams, New York City mayor
Crypto pay: First three paychecks
On Jan. 20, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that his first paycheck would be converted into Bitcoin and Ethereum by Coinbase Global. In November 2021, he had said he would take his first three paychecks in Bitcoin. This gesture was a nod to his promotion of New York City as the global leader in cryptocurrency. In the words of the mayor, “New York is the center of the world, and we want it to be the center of cryptocurrency and other financial innovations.”
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Francis Suarez, Miami mayor
Crypto pay: One paycheck
Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami, announced in November 2021 that he would take his next paycheck in Bitcoin, and he expressed the desire to pay the city’s 4,000 employees in cryptocurrency as well. As with NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Suarez took the step to promote his city as a cryptocurrency hub. He also wants other cities to join the movement, asking mayors to “sign on to a mayoral crypto compact.”
Russell Okung, former NFL player
Crypto pay: Half his salary
Russell Okung demonstrated his commitment to cryptocurrency in 2020, when as a member of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers he chose to take one-half of his $13 million salary in Bitcoin. Okung’s choice wasn’t so much a bet on the future value of cryptocurrency as much as the player’s belief that dollars are part of a “corrupt, manipulated economy.” According to Okung, “When we are all paid in Bitcoin, no one can tell us what to do with the value we create.”
50 Cent, rapper
Crypto pay: Album sales
50 Cent was one of the first public figures to accept Bitcoin as salary when he accepted the crypto as payment for his album “Animal Ambition” way back in 2014, when Bitcoin was worth just $662. Now hovering at about $39,000, the 700 or so Bitcoin he earned at the time sports a current value of about $27.3 million. Whether he still holds all of that Bitcoin is unknown, but as 50 Cent posted on Instagram, “Not bad for a kid from South Side. I’m so proud of me.”
Mel B, performing artist
Crypto pay: Proceeds from Christmas single
Former Spice Girl Mel B was another early adopter of cryptocurrency, accepting payment for her 2014 Christmas single in Bitcoin. At the time, Mel B was a partner with CloudHashing, a since-closed, London-based company that offered Bitcoin-mining contracts. Her reasoning was simple: “I love how new technology makes our lives easier, and to me that’s exciting. Bitcoin unites my fans around the world using one currency.”
Lionel Messi, Argentine soccer legend
Crypto pay: A “significant amount” of his pay
Specific details aren’t available, but Argentine soccer legend and global superstar Lionel Messi was said to receive “a significant amount” or his $30 million contract in cryptocurrency. Perhaps his employer, the French club Paris Saint-Germain, has something to do with it, as the news of this payment spiked the value of the club’s official fan token, known as PSG. The club all but admitted its support of the move, saying that it would position the club as one of the “most innovative and avant-garde brands in sport globally.”
Cade Cunningham, top NBA draft pick
Crypto pay: Signing bonus
The No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, Cade Cunningham announced that he would take his whole signing bonus in Bitcoin. Cunningham accepted the deal as part of his partnership with crypto firm BlockFi to help educate the public and raise awareness about cryptocurrency. As Cunningham said at the time, “Many hardworking people still don’t have access to cost-efficient, reliable options to save and invest.”
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