The conversation started with the thesis behind the startup, which was founded shortly after Jeter retired. He explained that while he was in the MLB he noticed more and more athletes having to be very careful what they said around traditional media — reporters are looking for headlines and athletes are just too worried about someone twisting their words.
So when you provide athletes with a safe platform to talk, great things can come of it.
Messler noted that the platform now has 1,500+ athlete contributors. And each athlete handles the writing process a bit differently. Some approach the startup with a fully written essay they are ready to share with the sports world. On the other hand, some come with no idea at all and work with the Tribune’s writing and editing team to help craft and write a story. Each athlete works with the same editor each time, allowing them to develop a relationship that leads to better storytelling and content creation.
When asked to categorize the content created by athletes, Messler simply described that the content created by athletes is first-person storytelling — and not designed to replace traditional sports media, which focuses on stats and scores and analysis.
Because at the end of the day, fans are coming to the site to hear directly from an athlete — not to read about how they played last night.
Athletes also play an important role behind the scenes of The Players’ Tribune. The company now has more than 50 athlete investors from across all sports. Jeter emphasized how important it is to have athletes on the cap table — “it wouldn’t be The Player’s Tribune if athletes didn’t have a stake in the company.”
The talk ended with Jeter and Messler talking about the future of the company. When asked if the template would work for other verticals like entertainers, Jeter simply said “shhh.”
He then elaborated that they do think it would work for other verticals and some of these celebrities have reached out to them seeing if they can publish content. And while we very likely may see actors and musicians using the platform at some point in the future, the company is currently focused on perfecting the experience within the sports vertical.