Tiki Barber knows what college athletes are going through right now. The former New York Giants star running back and three-time Pro Bowler played college football at the University of Virginia, and wasn't allowed to market himself. Players could not sell their autograph, nor profit off their success while the schools bring in millions of dollars each year. While that is likely changing down the road, Barber is looking to help college athletes make money as soon as possible through the social media platform Tsu.
Popculture.com recently caught up with Barber and Tsu CEO John Acunto, where Barber explained why he thinks this will help college athletes build their brand. "We know there's a change coming in allowing college athletes to profit off of their name image and likeness," Barber told PopCulture.com exclusively. "Tsu is perfectly positioned to capitalize on that, both on the storefront and from the content they create. It's really something that resonated with me."
Tsu originally launched in 2014, and it paid its users for sharing original content. It grew rapidly, reaching 3.5 million users in six months, but it shut its doors in 2016. It's now set to return in May, and users will be able to make money as it will split advertising revenue 50/50 with Tsu. Sounds great for college athletes who have millions of followers, but will the NCAA allow it?
"We don"t have a clue yet," Barber said who is a Tsu influencer. "The NCAA is still trying to find out. From a sports perspective, you're kind of in limbo. Do we have the power to do this? Should we really go after some of these college athletes? They would do amazingly well because they have hundreds of thousands of followers, and they engage them. What does Tsu do with the income they generate? It's up in the air."
"I see this as an opportunity for all kinds of various categories of people who are influencers who have brands to engage with us," Tsu CEO John Acunto said. "We don't want to single out any group. If a college athlete comes on to Tsu, and posts content, and therefore earns a check. What are the ramifications of that? I don't think we really know the answer and that's really a question that interests both Tiki and I."
The NCAA knows Tsu is coming, but it's still uncertain if college athletes will be allowed to access the platform when it launches. Either way, Barber knows college athletes will be making money soon, and he wants to be leading the way when it happens. "I know the commission of college athletics recommended that this happen," he said. "But the specific mechanism on how college athletes are compensated is still undetermined. If it's undetermined, it opens the door for a lot of bad factors to play in. We know it's coming."