Cryptocurrencies have been penetrating a variety of markets throughout our society, from grocery purchases, to art collection, to streaming subscriptions, and even online betting. Because of all this, it’s become somewhat hard to keep track of where exactly these currencies are most useful – particularly given that there isn’t necessarily any one space in which they’ve surpassed regular currency yet. Every now and then though, it can be interesting to peek in on an area in which crypto spending shows real potential to expand – and broadly speaking, the world of sports increasingly looks like a candidate.
Perhaps the most prominent example of cryptos impacting the world of sports comes from the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. In early 2014, the Kings became the first sports team to mine cryptocurrency. What this means specifically is that the Kings installed machines (called “Imperium” machines and made by MiningStore) in their arena as a means of doing the complex computing needed to bring new ethereum coins into the market – which in turn were fed into a scholarship program aimed at helping the Sacramento community. To some extent, other teams in the NBA have followed suit. The Dallas Mavericks, famously run by tech-savvy entrepreneur Mark Cuban, will begin accepting bitcoin for ticket payments this coming season, and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets have established partnerships with crypto companies.
Major League Baseball, too, has gotten increasingly involved with cryptocurrency in recent year. Just last year, the world’s preeminent baseball league partnered with the blockchain-based gaming company Lucid Sight to release a decentralized mobile game of sorts, called MLB Crypto Baseball (and seemingly based on the popular game CryptoKitties). Additionally, though this is more of a peripheral development, MLB fans may soon have the option to use cryptocurrencies to bet on outcomes. Betting odds concerning the MLB are becoming increasingly available to the league’s main audience, given the expansion of legal gambling in the U.S., and at the same time, cryptos are starting to be discussed as perfect fits for the betting business. This is most relevant to baseball at the moment, given we’re in the midst of the MLB season at the time of this writing, but the truth is that this betting point will ultimately impact all popular sports.
Furthermore, to be clear, the marriage between cryptos and sports isn’t unique to U.S. sports leagues and markets. For example, some of the world’s biggest soccer clubs are unsurprisingly leveraging bitcoin and its underlying technology, blockchain, to give fans a better, more immersive experience. These clubs include Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, West Ham, and Roma, all of which have existing partnerships with the blockchain-based fan engagement platform Socios. This platform allows the clubs just mentioned to launch their own fan tokens which, in turn, can be used for a variety of purposes. These include partaking in team-run voting, accessing exclusive content, and buying club memorabilia.
Beyond team and league interest altogether, we’ve also seen that even individual athletes want in on cryptocurrency. In May, Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung let it be known via Twitter that he wants to be paid in bitcoin. “Pay me in Bitcoin,” Okung tweeted, before following up with, “How dope would it be to see a ESPN headline with an athlete being paid in $BTC?” Another NFL player, quarterback Matt Barkley of the Buffalo Bills has also expressed through Twitter his desire to be paid in cryptocurrency. So far, however, these players’ teams have refused to oblige, which makes the case of Nikolaj Rosenthal pretty much one of a kind. Rosenthal is a famous hockey player in Denmark, and is the world’s first professional athlete being paid in bitcoin.
Rosenthal might be an outlier as of now, but remember, cryptos are still fairly new – as is the sports world’s interest in them. It could be that he’ll spark a trend, and even if not, all of the points outlined above point to depending ties between cryptocurrency and sports.