Derek Jeter Launches The Players’ Tribune As a Digital Platform for Athletes

Yes, they say, they write their own articles

When Jason Collins decided to announce he was retiring from the NBA, he wanted to say it in his own words. Instead of going to a traditional media outlet, he wrote a first-person essay for The Players' Tribune, a digital publication that gives athletes a chance to share their stories.

"We're more, sometimes, than the article that gets written about us," Collins said. "We do have other interests. I can't think of another place that would let my whole article breathe."

Derek Jeter launched The Players' Tribune at an event in New York on Valentine's Day, describing the outlet as a way to supplement traditional publications. The recently retired baseball legend explained that while the media helped shape his career, he wanted to give athletes their own platform. Besides Collins, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Nascar's Danica Patrick are already on board.

"Athletes are hesitant to share their opinions because they don't know how it's going to come across," Jeter explained during a panel discussion.

Jeter's outlet isn't the first to try to present celebrities without a filter. WhoSay allows artists to speak directly to fans, while Twitter and Facebook certify popular accounts to ensure a degree of authenticity. But The Players' Tribune also promises a sports focus, bringing with it a sizeable fan base and a lucrative opportunity for brands to come on board. Already, Porsche has signed up to be the first advertiser. AOL signed on to be a distribution and co-production launch partner, while SiriusXM will host a weekly Players' Tribune radio show, debuting today. Blue Jeans Network, a cloud-based video conferencing service, also will partner with the publication for video and other interactive events. 

Of course, some fans might wonder if the athletes really write their own articles. At the launch, editorial director Gary Hoenig said most seasoned journalists don't see their first drafts in print, and the athletes go through the same editing process any writer would. 

Collins explained he was drawn to the site because the process is similar to what he went through with Sports Illustrated when he wrote about being gay, making him the first openly gay professional athlete. He called writing for The Players' Tribune a collaborative process, where he goes back and forth with editors, and said it would be interesting to one day make the different drafts public so people could see the changes made.

"At the end of the day, it's your voice out there," Collins said. "It's just like your performance out there on the court and the field; you have to stand behind your work. At the very least, you've started a conversation."