In the oversaturated realm of sports journalism, The Player’s Tribune is a standout.
In lieu of outsider sports coverage and analysis, the Player’s Tribune — which was founded by Derek Jeter — is curated and controlled by professional athletes, providing a unique perspective into the daily sports conversation. In fact, thousands of athletes have published first-person accounts on the platform to date, including a photography essay from Kevin Durant, a poem from Kobe Bryant and personal reflections from David Ortiz.
In January, the company raised a $40 million Series C, which it’s been using to scale its content, expand video production and grow its sales and editorial operations. The team is made up of about 60 employees — one third of which are women.
We spoke with Head of Content Jessica Robertson and Creative Director Maureen Cavanagh to find out more on what goes on behind the scenes at this scrappy new media startup where Derek Jeter is the boss.
What is your role at The Player's Tribune?
Jessica Robertson: My title is Head of Content but that's only a way of saying I work with all of our talented creative leads across editorial, video, social and audio, on what we create, how we create it and why we create it.
Maureen Cavanagh: I am the Creative Director of TPT. I oversee the visual design and aesthetic of the site and brand. One of the biggest parts of my job is to recognize, nurture and promote other people’s good ideas.
What initially attracted you to the company?
Robertson: Storytelling. First-person as an editorial construct isn't new, but the intimacy of the stories, the quality of the craftwork and the opportunity therein had me right away (I joined the company about two months after its soft launch). I remember reading a piece by Michael Carter-Williams on the 76ers and the issue of tanking. I felt like I was reading one of the best chapters in his autobiography — it was that good. I wanted to be a part of that — humanizing athletes and issues through the power of narrative.
Cavanagh: The ability to start something from the ground up with really smart people. (Plus, like with Neymar, they agreed to give me a $200 million Euro buyout clause).
In three words, how would you describe The Player's Tribune's internal culture?
Robertson: Creative. Energized. Collaborative.
Cavanagh: Sleep-deprived hustlers.
Does the company have core values and if so, in what ways are they carried out?
Robertson: Empower ideas and people. Have empathy. Trust. Be authentic.
Cavanagh: This group is impressively scrappy and creative in the way they approach everything from brand integration to visual strategy, while at the same time always trying to stay authentic to the athletes voice.
What excites you about working in this space?
Robertson: I never think of TPT as part of sports media, per se. Sports is a prism for us to tell very human stories with people who happen to be athletes. I'm excited about working in that space — creating content that makes people think and feel. I think The Players' Tribune has disrupted sports media in the right way — one that calls for greater dissection of the stories we, as media, tell, the stories we don't, and why. We're only just beginning.
Cavanaugh: Bottom line: sports media is fun and it's hard to complain about a job when you have a pop-a-shot in your office and Derek Jeter is your boss.
Images via The Player's Tribune.