There’s some new competition in the world of sports writing, in the form of Derek Jeter, Russell Wilson and crew. Here’s why The Players Tribune is a relevant and welcome addition to the conversation.
Just days after his retirement from baseball, Derek Jeter announced that he was launching The Players Tribune, a website and media enterprise that would allow athletes to share their own “unfiltered” honest views and perspectives in their own words. As he explained it, the concept is to provide unique and unprecedented access to top athletes in every sport by giving players a safe platform where they can get their message across in the way they want to portray it:
I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows. We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.
In my circle of friends, this news was greeted with eyebrow-raising interest as a media story of sports stars with leverage trying to take over their own messaging and eliminate the middle man, an interesting story of athletes more directly connecting with fans in this age of connection. I joked that he should have called it #nofilter. To naysayers, this concept seemed a touch hypocritical. Jeter himself was always incredibly guarded with the media to preserve his carefully cultivated image. And isn’t athletes’ taking over their own messaging just spin doctoring of a different sort?
Both sides wondered what this was really all about and what, if anything, the athletes will have to say for themselves?
We didn’t have to wait long.
Yesterday, the first story ran on The Players Tribune. Penned by Seahawks All-Pro quarterback (and Players Tribune Senior Editor!) Russell Wilson, it is entitled “Let’s Talk About Domestic Violence.” And it is tremendous.
Wilson addresses an issue that “many NFL players are reluctant to address,” off-the-field-violence, ranging from bullying to domestic violence.
He begins with a startlingly honest admission and delivers a forthcoming and heartfelt message about growing up, being a man, and taking responsibility to make the world a better place:
I used to beat people up. Truthfully, I used to beat people up a lot. Many of you readers, probably think I have been Mr. Goody Two Shoes my whole life, but honestly, I was a bully growing up.
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I still have a bit of that bully deep down inside . . . and I work hard to keep it there.
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When I look back at beating kids up on the playground, I don’t like that image. But I moved past that place in my life, and I’m proud of the man I am now.
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I’m not a perfect person by any means. I’m just a recovering bully. But if we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it. For those of us in the NFL, there’s no excuse for violence off the field.
In his article (full text available here), Wilson announced his Pass the Peace initiative to support victims of domestic violence: “The idea behind Pass the Peace is simple: It’s a promise. I’m sharing my love for you. I want to take care of you. I am here for you.”
So much ire has been levied at the NFL for its “violence problem.” Wilson’s piece reminds us that the NFL is not just some amorphous faceless institution. It is made up of people, and those people – the players – now have a voice.
This is a tremendously encouraging first piece, and it will be exciting to see how pro sports players will use this new platform to share their stories andThe views going forward.
We at The Good Men Project are focused on facilitating a broad conversation about sports and society that is about tapping into and examining sports as a reflection of our values—of who were are and of where we are going—and as an agent of personal growth and positive change in the world.
If that’s what Derek Jeter, Russell Wilson, et al. continue to do with the Players Tribune platform, this is an important development that we can get behind.
Welcome to The Show Players Tribune!
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)