Billed as, ‘the voice of the game’ NYC-based startup The Players’ Tribune is a new media platform aimed at allowing professional athletes to speak directly to their fans.
Connecting to Fans
From the beginning the idea was to allow athletes to connect directly to the fans. Founded in 2014 by NY Yankee legend Derek Jeter, The Players’ Tribune allows professional athletes the platform to publish first person narratives that reveal their personal messages directly with fans. The content ranges from long and short-form narratives, to videos, podcasts, photo galleries, and even to player polls. According to TPT editorial director Gary Hoenig, “The athletes will focus on issues and topics and will produce their own content. The Players’ Tribune editors will edit their drafts, but the athletes will have the final say regarding what we publish.”
The idea for the site grew out of a need for an athlete owed and managed platform that would allow athletes the opportunity to present themselves without bias or spin directly to their fans. According to TPT co-founder and president Jaymee Messler, “In this day and age of media, you have to be careful with what you say all the time, and it’s cool to have a platform where you know you can speak freely and then be part of the editing afterward to make sure that the article comes out how you want it to and is saying what you want it to, because sometimes you’re dealing with sensitive subjects and every word needs to be right.”
In October of 2015, TPT closed a $5.5 million Series B round of funding led by investor Kobe Bryant. One month later in November of 2015, the Laker legend used the new platform to announce his own retirement from the NBA. This was the first of a several big-name athletes who used the platform to make such announcements. In that same year, NBA great Steve Nash used the platform to announce his retirement as well. And the following year, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz used the platform to do the same. Aside from retirements, well known professional athletes have also used the site to break other big news as well. Such news has included free agency announcements by sought after players Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, as well as many others. Two of the most prolific contributors on the site are Seattle Seahawk lightning rod Richard Sherman, who’s contributed over 30 pieces, and Carolina Panther all-star quarterback Cam Newton. The site has also seen contributions from some of the biggest names in sports history, including pieces by Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.
To date, the page has reportedly raised over $58 million from four rounds of funding. The largest round closed in January of 2017 was a $40 million Series C round. This round was led by California-based investor Institutional Venture Partners, and also included further funding by Kobe Bryant, as well as funding by Legendary Entertainment producer, Thomas Tull. Along with Jeter and Bryant, the company has seen funding by over 50 other professional athletes, including Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant. To date the site has over 1,200 athlete contributors and seems well on pace to continue into the future.