When Curtis McDowald drew his épée at his first Olympics, he had already made history. There would be the hard-fought bouts to place him 24th overall, and later, 9th in the team event, where he and two teammates wore pink face masks to protest another teammate accused of sexual assault. But the moment the Jamaica, Queens native stepped onto the piste, he did so with CryptoPunk #9362 on all of his social media profiles, becoming the first Olympian to bring the iconic NFTs to the greatest stage in the world.
#Olympunks—which McDowald says is not a protest, but a demonstration of who he is and what he’s about—began when Joshua Doner, CEO of virtual NFT gallery platform Mynt.La, met McDowald through their mutual friend Spencer. Doner asked him if he’d set his profile picture to a CryptoPunk as an experiment in social capital during his Olympics run.
McDowald immediately understood. He made the change, and within hours, his Twitter followers soared—Gary Vaynerchuk among his new captive audience.
For McDowald, a CryptoPunk goes beyond pure novelty; it is digital identity. The act of wearing one is an expression of self, and brand, when many athletes at the Games have few avenues for self-promotion.
“Fencing, like many other Olympic sports, is really an amateur sport. And there aren’t many ways to bring value to your brand,” McDowald told ONE37pm.