Bitcoin will be the new title sponsor for the St. Petersburg Bowl, according to ESPN. The Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl will kick off Dec. 26, and the sponsorship deal was recently signed between BitPay (Bitcoin’s payment processor) and ESPN Events. The contract will last four years, and people will be able to purchase bowl merchandise with Bitcoin.
Bitcoin has become increasingly mainstream over the past few months, as companies such as Dish Network, Expedia Inc. and Overstock.com Inc. have all announced they will accept Bitcoin for customer transactions. The Sacramento Kings were the first sports team to accept Bitcoin after allowing fans to buy tickets and merchandise with the virtual currency starting in March.
This is a bad look at an inopportune time for defenders of the current college athletics model, as we will now see student-athletes compete in a bowl game sponsored by a currency, albeit virtual. The optics of this deal — between a bowl game sponsor and a television network — end up being poor for the NCAA and its representatives, who are currently in the midst of the O’Bannon trial. The NCAA would certainly like to disassociate itself from this type of sponsorship, and the deal undoubtedly leads to fodder for critics. As the organization continues to defend its current model in court, it’s not getting any help in the court of public opinion.