Why Derek Jeter Traded Pinstripes for Publishing With The Players’ Tribune

'It's not built for me. It's built for the athletes'

Derek Jeter hung up his glove last September, ending a legendary 20-season baseball career with the Yankees. He's since embarked on a new path: publisher of The Players' Tribune, a portal for athletes to share their thoughts and experiences. We spoke to The Captain about the motivations for creating his new outlet, why video is important to the publication, what to expect from it and why he's happy staying off-camera in this new venture.

Adweek: Why start The Players' Tribune?

Derek Jeter: I'm still expanding the things I want to do in this part of my life. As someone who's been a focus of the media during my career, and has thought about it quite a bit, I definitely saw the need for something like The Players' Tribune. I had to deal with the media on a daily basis: when I first showed up to the game, during batting practice, after the game. I was constantly asked questions. I constantly answered questions.

I think a lot of times—not speaking from my own experience, but speaking to a lot of athletes from different sports—athletes may be a little hesitant to share their entire opinions. They're scared about how things can be misconstrued at times. I felt as though this is something that was needed. Judging by all the contributions we've got from different athletes, I think a lot of people are in agreement.

When you started, social media wasn't around. How has it changed how athletes communicate with the public and press?

(Laughs) Is that a way to say that I'm old? It's changed the landscape of reporting and what you do. Like watching a game, now you can't even tape a game because it would be hard to avoid all the social media and people giving you updates. You have to watch in real time. In terms of what athletes do on the field and on the court, everything they do seems instantaneously found out by everyone. You go to a restaurant, everyone knows. You go to a movie, everyone knows. I think that's changed the landscape on the field of play, but off the field as well. Everyone is a reporter now. 

Photo: Christopher Anderson/Jeter Publishing

How have online publications changed sports reporting?

People are always fighting for stories. They're fighting for headlines. I think people always want to get the story out first, not always right. Then they check the story and the facts later on, which is unfortunate. I'm not saying everyone, but I think at times that happens. We wanted a place where athletes can get the story out and tell their opinions first off. Other platforms have different priorities, like the news cycle or game coverage. That's just not us. Sometimes people are interested in creating headlines, and I think that affects how stories are written at times. We want the story to be right.

This is a way for [athletes] to tell their story from their point of view, unfiltered. We wanted the place to be comfortable, where they can speak their mind and not worry about things being taken out of context and not worry about only part of the story getting out. When I retired, I posted a letter on my foundation's [Turn 2 Foundation] Facebook page because I wanted everyone to see the entire message if they wanted to.

Do athletes actually write the stories for The Players' Tribune?

Some athletes write the stories, and some athletes work with our producers who then ghostwrite the stories for them. In that case, our producers create a transcript from their conversations, and from there a story is written. Usually it goes back and forth a few times between the producers and the athletes, and nothing goes up without final athlete approval.

Why is video so important to The Players' Tribune?

We want to give athletes every opportunity to share their stories and perspectives. We're excited about the impact and direct connection that video can provide, and we're working hard to make sure we're making the type of video that elevates and amplifies their ideas. We're focused on formats that fans will like, and we're in development for numerous regular video series.

We have also debuted our first video series called Players' POV. In the first episode, Russell Wilson discussed the Super Bowl. In the second, Larry Sanders talked about his decision to step away from the NBA. I think these two showcase our goals with video, which is about capturing the first-person perspective in a high-quality way. We will be producing regular shorter-form, as well as some longer-form programs. There are also a few other projects we're working on with our partners at Legendary that will bring fans and athletes closer together.

How do you select the partners you work with, such as AOL?

We want to work with companies who get what we're trying to do, and also want to work with us to try and create something special. Throughout my career, it was important to work with brands that are authentic to me. It's also about relationships. I've been fortunate in that throughout my career I've worked with a lot of great companies that not only supported me on the field but supported my foundation throughout the years, and they've continued to support my foundation even after I retired. That's what I mean in terms of building relationships.

Are you interested in doing more in front of the camera, or do you prefer to be behind the scenes?

I'm staying behind the scenes for the most part. There's plenty to do when you're running a company. When it makes sense for me to step in front, then that's where I'll be. I think I've learned a lot throughout my career. People have said, "Oh, it seems you've just jumped into the business world." I think I've been well-educated in a lot of aspects of business throughout my career, whether it's on the playing field, doing endorsement deals, marketing deals and my foundation.

I enjoy trying to help the Tribune grow, whether it's through strategic partners or answering any questions that some of the fellow athletes might have. When I first launched the Tribune, people had the idea that all of a sudden I was going to be pouring my heart out every week through the Tribune, tell everything about myself. But it's not built for me. It's built for the athletes.

Now that you are out of the MLB, are you going to play fantasy baseball?

I don't think so. I don't know anything about fantasy baseball. I don't know how it works—fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy sports. I'm sort of old school when it comes to watching the game. One team wins, one team loses. I don't know how to mix and match. (Laughs) I'm still trying to understand cricket, which I learned when I was in Australia. I'm working on that first. Maybe I'll learn fantasy sports in the near future.

Fantasy cricket maybe?

There you go. (Laughs)