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“The Fed keeps printing trillions of dollars,” said the bitcoin advocate. “The best defense against inflation, I believe, is bitcoin, and they will keep printing money.”
The man spoke fluent crypto. He sounded like a speaker at a Bitcoin conference. And in fact he was a speaker at a Bitcoin conference. But he also happens to be future Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who’s one of CoinDesk’s inaugural Crypto Sports All-Stars.
This piece is part of CoinDesk's Sports Week.
It’s a solid roster. It’s packed with elite National Football League quarterbacks, tennis players and soccer players who all believe in the power of decentralized self-sovereign finance. We limited ourselves to 10, and the list is admittedly arbitrary – LeBron James would like a word – but it gives a sense of how deeply crypto has oozed into mainstream professional sports.
Oh, and as for the return on their crypto investment? For each Crypto All-Star, we tried to calculate what you would have gained – or lost – if you invested $1,000 in the All-Star's chosen project at the time of his or her announcement.
So let’s meet the team and size up your fortune!
1. Team Captain: Tom Brady
Did Brady curse bitcoin? On May 9, 2021, with the price of bitcoin hovering around $58,000, the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added “laser eyes” to his Twitter avatar. The price then plunged to $30,000. “Alright the laser eyes didn’t work,” Brady admitted. “Anyone have any ideas?”
Yes, there were more ideas! He had the idea to use a flamethrower to thaw a block of ice with bitcoin inside. (That was in a commercial for crypto exchange FTX.)
He launched an NFT (non-fungible token) collection that sold out in under 10 minutes. He and his wife, Gisele, now have equity in FTX, and Brady co-founded NFT platform Autograph that raised a cool $170 million in January.
Perhaps most endearingly, after Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin claimed to not even know who Brady is, the football player tweeted, “What’s up Vitalik! You may not know me but just wanted to say I’m a big fan of yours."
2. Lionel Messi
When you head to the website of fan token Socios.com, the first thing you see is a giant image of Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi’s bearded mug. He has a big smile and he’s proudly holding his phone to show the Socios app. Messi has good reason to smile: He signed a whopping $20 million deal to promote Socios, explaining that he wanted to “create a more connected and rewarding future for fans around the world.” It’s certainly a more rewarding future, or at least it is for him.
3. Serena Williams
The tennis legend is more than just crypto-curious. At Bitcoin 2022 Conference in Miami, she revealed that she considers bitcoin a “super strong investment,” and her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, has invested in a bitcoin rewards startup called Lolli, because she believes that “earning and owning bitcoin is a step towards financial inclusivity for all people.”
4. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
A throwback to the glorious wackiness of the 2017 initial coin offering craze. On Instagram, the legendary former boxer boldly announced to the world, “I’m gonna make a $hit t$n of money on August 2nd on the Stox.com ICO,” referring to an early prediction market project. The world was baffled. What the hell is an ICO? What’s he talking about? “Is it real?” CoinDesk wondered at the time. That post has since been deleted, but Mayweather would later shill more ICOs (including one that triggered a lawsuit), wore a tee shirt promoting “Ethereum Max” in June 2021, was roundly booed at a bitcoin conference and had one simple request for the world: “You can call me Floyd Crypto Mayweather.”
5. Jessica Pegula
Currently the seventh-ranked women’s tennis player in the world, Pegula became the first female athlete to drop an NFT collection in March 2021, telling the Tennis Channel that “it's a really cool different kind of outlet for female athletes.” She noted that “sometimes you have to take some chances,” and hoped that she “inspires more athletes and more girls to do the same thing."
6. Aaron Rodgers
“I believe in Bitcoin & the future is bright,” Rodgers tweeted. “That's why I’m teaming up with Cash App to take a portion of my salary in bitcoin today.” Wearing a black suit and tie (in a John Wick Halloween costume), Rodgers sipped a glass of whiskey and said, “Bitcoin to the moon,” announcing that he and Cash App will give away $1 million worth of bitcoin so that “we can go to the moon together.”
7. Spencer Dinwiddie
When not dishing dimes for the Dallas Mavericks, Dinwiddie co-founded the social token platform Calaxy (raising $26 million). He has been publicly bullish on bitcoin since October 2018 (in a Bleacher Report profile, he described how he traded bitcoin on his phone before NBA practices). He appeared on Pomp’s podcast in 2020. He tried to have his National Basketball Association contract tokenized, and he even hosted “New Money” for CoinDesk TV. The man is prescient. In May 2021, he told me that his NBA colleagues are warming to crypto, and that “everybody wants in.”
8. Megan Rapinoe
Long a champion of inclusiveness and equality, the soccer player helped bring female athletes into the NFT market by launching “The Collective Series,” a spread of digital trading cards that also includes skateboarder Mariah Duran, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Women's National Basketball Association icon Sue Bird. Rapinoe’s natural charisma is so strong that as Jezebel’s Shannon Melero put it, she “tragically forc[es] fans like me to consider buying cryptocurrency.”
9. Russell Okung
It pays to be early. In May 2019, long before it became fashionable, Okung, then a player for the Los Angeles Chargers, tweeted a simple statement: “Pay me in bitcoin.” Crypto Twitter was ecstatic; “I see you!!!” gushed entrepreneur Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano, along with six fire emojis. Okung got his wish. Not only did he receive half his NFL salary in bitcoin (the first NFL player to do so), he also helped launch the “Bitcoin Is” educational campaign and even jostled with Tesla CEO Elon Musk over miners’ energy usage, paying for a billboard that said “Stick to space, Elon.”
10. Steph Curry
In a commercial for FTX, Steph Curry, a guard on the Golden State Warriors, insists that he’s not an expert in crypto. Maybe. But he was savvy enough to snag an equity stake in FTX. He dropped 3,000 sneaker NFTs, he bought a Bored Ape (at one point worth 75 ETH), and he even made the Ape his Twitter avatar.
His teammates are also into crypto. Both Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala are getting paid partially in bitcoin, and the Warriors signed an NFT partnership with FTX. Maybe most importantly, Curry wisely followed Brady’s advice: “Whatever you do … don’t laser eyes!”
Honorable Mention – Dennis Rodman
Rodman has been out of the NBA for over two decades. But The Worm deserves a shout-out for an incredible tee shirt he wore to Singapore, where he had hoped to help broker peace between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un: “Peace Starts in Singapore - PotCoin.com” We agree that none of those words make any sense.