You can play football with this. Photographer: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
You can play football with this. Photographer: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Bitcoin wants to play ball.

The digital currency has broken into the sports world, with one of its payment services providers, BitPay, inking a three-year deal with ESPN Events to sponsor the St. Petersburg Bitcoin Bowl. The annual college football bowl game, previously known as the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, will be held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on December 26 and will feature a contest between teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the American Athletic Conference. While the terms of the deal are unknown, CNBC previously reported that Beef O'Brady's was paying $400,000 a year to sponsor the game.

Digital currency has been pushing into sports of late. Back in January, the Sacramento Kings announced that they would start accepting Bitcoin as payment for team merchandise and game tickets. Meanwhile, Dogecoin stockpiled a ton of good will when the cryptocurrency's philanthropic foundation raised enough money to send the Jamaican bobsled team to the Winter Olympics in February. A month later, some intrepid Redditors launched a campaign to raise Dogecoins to fund Josh Wise's car for the Spring Cup Series race at Talladega, resulting in Dogecoin becoming the first digital currency to be an official sponsor of a NASCAR driver.

The Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl is Bitcoin's latest move into mainstream commerce. Still, Bitcoin won't shake its outlaw reputation anytime soon. The currency has found a home in the world of illegal online gambling, much of which is sports betting. The anonymity of Bitcoin transactions makes them a useful tool for professional gamblers (who, being gamblers, probably enjoy gaming its price volatility, as well).

Such concerns might have raised eyebrows over at ESPN, but as Deadspin and ValleyWag note, there's a whole other seedy underbelly to this new partnership. The CEO of BitPay is a guy named Tony Gallippi. He made a name for himself more than ten years ago when he founded Soopermodels.com, which published sexualized photos of bikini-clad models, some of whom were as young as 13. It's a questionable choice at best for ESPN, which doesn't exactly need more tales of sexual predation clinging to the Bristol headquarters.

Then again, a lucrative partnership based on making money off of kids -- this time college football players -- sounds like an appropriate brand extension.

To contact the writer of this article: Kavitha A. Davidson at kdavidson19@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net.