The Players’ Tribune story: How the perfect platform for athletes was created

Derek Jeter Players

When you look at nearly every major sports announcement in the last 4 years they’ve all originated from one site, The Players’ Tribune. Kobe Bryant’s retirement, Derek Jeter’s retirement, and Kevin Durant’s free agency decision with the Warriors are all pieces that emerged from the outlet. For the uninitiated, The Players’ Tribune is a new media platform that provides exclusive content written by professional athletes themselves.

“The Players’ Tribune idea came from Derek Jeter,” CEO Jeff Levick said. “Derek was still an active player, thinking of ways he could his announce his retirement, and speak directly to the fans about what it meant to be a Yankee for 20 years.”

The common problem athletes have when announcing these statements, is the fact that the stories are never published through their own perspective. It’s hard for athletes to trust a media outlet with major pieces about themselves.

“Derek felt like that anytime he did something or said something, his words were twisted or turned,” Levick said. “It was never the story he felt was told correctly. He thought about getting rid of the middle man. He wanted to create a platform where athletes speak directly to fans.”

The first post of The Players’ Tribune was Derek Jeter’s retirement. Through that piece, the journey of the site began, to be a trusted voice for athletes. From that moment onwards, The Players’ Tribune found its first contributors: Russell Wilson, Blake Griffin, Danica Patrick, and Kevin Love.

“The first group of athletes were excited about what we were doing,” Levick said. “The players were solving the players’ problems. The early athletes loved what Derek was doing, and were all great story-tellers too.”

Subsequently, players have become more outspoken as they’ve armed themselves with a sword in the form of a keyboard. Within the last year, the world has seen Kevin Love address mental health in the NBA, LeBron James attack political incorrectness, and other athletes address both issues.

“I think that players have always had something to say, they just haven’t had the right place to say it,” Levick said. There’s only so much you can express in the confines of a Tweet or an Instagram post. We provide a platform for much more immersive story-telling, whether it’s addressing an opinion, problem, or a passion.”

Through that story-telling, The Players’ Tribune wants to illustrate the human side of athletes. The side that you can’t see on the court or field.

“All athletes are incredibly interesting people,” Levick said. “We help the players get further dimension in who they are as people, to allow fans to know more about the person not the player. “

Over the last 4 years there have been hundreds of player published articles, each carrying a significant weight in the sports world. All of those articles hold sentimental value to CEO Jeff Levick, but there’s one in particular that he feels an extra emotional attachment towards.

“It’s impossible to have a favorite story,” Levick said. “I get inspired, it’s more about inspiration than having a favorite story because there’s so many great stories. I think it was really brave what Kevin Love did. I think even Kevin was overwhelmed with the experience and the outpouring of support.”

In March 2018, Kevin Love revealed that he had been seeing a therapist for several months after a panic attack during game in November 2017. Within his article he addressed creating a better world for discussing mental health and stressed that, “Everyone is going through something we can’t see.”

“It was something that wasn’t typically talked about in the athlete community, which was challenges with mental health,” Levick said. “As a result, he’s gotten very involved with that movement. Experiences like that really inspire me to share the power of our platform and the power of athletes to inspire beyond more than what they do on the court/field.”

The power to inspire beyond more than the court is the impact The Players’ Tribune hopes to leave. The end goal of expanding the dimensions of a player through the site, is to expand their capability of doing good for others. LeBron James is known for popularizing the saying, “I am more than an athlete”. That quote is the perfect example of the legacy Jeff Levick wants The Players’ Tribune to be known for.

“I think the legacy I hope we can leave is to help athletes expand their ability to do good for people,” Levick said. “I think that’s not just a great legacy to this incredibly important athlete community, but to people as a whole.”

As the site has increased in popularity, Levick has found himself reaching out to others about the significance of story-telling. It’s a dying art form that’s still capable of doing great good in the world. He will be speaking to individuals about this significance at the WORLDZ conference on Oct. 17.


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