A fifth-year forward for Toronto FC is the latest professional athlete to convert a portion of his salary to bitcoin.

Ifunanyachi Achara, 23, said he takes around half of his Major League Soccer (MLS) salary in bitcoin by linking with a third-party exchange service. He switched to Bitwage in February after months of self-executing Binance buys.

Achara is among the first pro athletes to go public with their bitcoin salaries. Like National Football League players Sean Culkin and Russell Okung, Achara said he believes bitcoin is a hedge against fiat inflation – particularly in his home country. The Nigerian naira’s annual inflation hit a four-year high at above 18% in March.

“The rate of inflation is killing us,” Achara said in an interview. “The more the U.S. prints money during COVID to help people, the more it devalues our currency. So my family, when I send them money home, I send them bitcoin.”

Bitcoin remittances have appealed for years to pockets of foreigners moving money back home. BTC’s decentralized nature allows users to sidestep high wire-transfer fees. In the case of Nigeria, whose government shuts down private citizens’ bank accounts, according to Achara, it allowed him to skirt a monetary blockade. 

“If I wanted to send money to my parents to move away from a state that I felt like was really violent, I couldn’t,” Achara said. “I couldn’t send them money to the bank. It was just through Bitcoin that I was able to send my family money more easily and efficiently and as fast as possible.”

Many Nigerians are storing their wealth in foreign bills, according to Bloomberg. Achara’s family is just doing it in bitcoin. They occasionally trade their bitcoin for the local currency, he said. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s central bank is allegedly closing crypto traders’ bank accounts.

For Bitwage, Achara is the company’s first pro athlete, though CEO Jonathan Chester said the company is “in conversations with other athletes, musicians and famous influencers.”

“We’ve been helping people get paid in bitcoin for seven years,” Chester said via email, “but this is the first year that we are really starting to see bitcoin payroll pick up with mainstream markets.”

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