The Oklahoman - Jacob Unruh
How Pokes with a Purpose is helping Oklahoma State athletes, community in NIL era
STILLWATER – Five months ago, Steve Reibert was admittingly frustrated as he typed up a text message to a close friend.
Oklahoma State’s football team was losing players to the transfer portal. It was alarming. And a Tulsa sports radio show fired Reibert up even more.
He thought of secondary stalwarts Tanner McCalister and Jarrick Bernard-Converse departing within a few weeks to Ohio State and LSU, respectively. Whether they left to follow a coach, a different opportunity or if name, image, and likeness benefits factored into their decision, Reibert wanted answers.
The OSU graduate and booster sent the message to Darren Shrum, the husband of university president Kayse Shrum.
Reibert wanted to know if anyone was looking out for the student-athletes already on campus. Was there a collective of alumni to help facilitate NIL deals?
Shrum didn’t text back. Instead, he called. There was nothing in the works. So, Reibert and his wife Tracy, prayed about the next step. And they went to work, forming their own collective.
“We just felt it was time to answer the call and give back to the university that helped us so much,” Steve said. “That’s where Tracy and I met. Obviously, Oklahoma State means a lot to us.”
The Reiberts established Pokes with a Purpose, a new NIL collective aimed to benefit OSU’s student-athletes, along side several other prominent alumni and former star athletes. But it had a unique spin.
Each student-athlete will work with a local charity, earning every bit of the profit while giving back to the community. That means public service announcements, fundraisers, interactions or more. Some OSU athletes hope to work with charities alongside their teammates. It’s a win-win situation all around.
“We really had two choices,” Tracy said. “We could just pay the players, or we could pay the players and help charity. “I just felt like we’re not New York, we’re not L.A.; we’re Oklahoma, small town Stillwater and I just felt like that was something that would be more palatable to Oklahomans and OSU fans.”
Pokes with a Purpose is one of the three collectives nationwide to be granted 501©(3) status – making it a tax exempt, charitable organization – and only the one of six seeking that status. There are 73 NIL collectives formed across the country, according to BusinessOfCollegeSports.com
“It was (taking) a chance but I just felt like that’s what OSU graduates would support, “Tracy said. “It’s more of a non-profit than a for-profit where you take 20% of all the kids’ deals. I didn’t think that would fly. And I didn’t want to do that. That wasn’t interesting to me. That wasn’t what I wanted to spend my time on, either.”
Collectives formed all over the country as NIL took shape the past year. Other trends have emerged, including players launching their own NIL clubs, like OSU’s football team did this week with Stillwater NIL Club.
Fans can purchase access to players and support them. Pokes with a Purpose is a lone collective at OSU. It recently merged with Unbridled, a collective formed earlier this year by OSU alumnus Joe Eastin now serves on the Pokes with a Purpose board of directors.
Unlike several collectives across the country, every OSU student-athlete, whether on scholarship or not, is eligible for Pokes with a Purpose. That was important to all involved. “Now it showed more value for the athlete,” said former OSU football star Kenyatta Wright, who is on the board and has two sons playing as walk-ons this upcoming football season. “It maybe sets off a burden for an athlete who wants to walk on at Oklahoma State, but they don’t really have the financial means to do it. This will help with that. “And at the end of the day, that athlete is going to give to a charity or be involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters to mentor, and that changes the landscape of who they are, and it also benefits their family someday.”
Getting another board member to join was tougher. Former OSU star quarterback Brandon Weeden is not a fan of NIL. The lack of oversight is concerning. He believes the rich will get richer. But he also realized this was a necessary evil. OSU could not fall behind. He likes where this collective is headed. “I think we’re doing all the right things,” Weeden said. “I was torn when I decided to jump on board with them. I’m not a very opinionated guy, but for some reason this is frustrating for me. “First and foremost, I wanted to do what I can do to help the university I love. That’s my main concern now. Again, if you’re not part of it, you’re going to be left behind. I’m trying to be as proactive with those guys as possible.”
OSU officials cannot comment on the collective. But all involved with Pokes with a Purpose said they worked with OSU’s compliance department. The Reiberts even met with OSU coaches seeking input. “We knew it needed to be done.” Tracy said. “But we’re going to do it the right way. We’re not going to cut corners; we’re not going to in anyways cheat or anything like that. We’re going to do it the right way and we’re going to make sure the athlete is our primary focus.
For Steve and Tracy, the timing was just right. Their son just graduated high school. Their daughter is in high school. Steve owns a metal distributing company in Tulsa. He bought season tickets for the suite level at Boone Pickens Stadium last fall. But starting this collective has propelled them into new territory.
They’ve heard from several alumni across the country looking to help. They welcome more. They all want to help the student-athletes, university, and community. For the Reiberts, kick-starting Pokes with a Purpose was the best path for OSU. “We’re certainly doing it all for the university and not our own sakes,” Steve said. “We certainly hope a lot of good comes out of it.”
Previous Press Releases
POKES WITH A PURPOSE PROVIDES NIL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETES WHILE HELPING COMMUNITY CHARITIES
Oklahoma State University alumni and friends are launching Pokes with a Purpose, a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission of providing NIL opportunities for all Oklahoma State student-athletes as well as fundraising opportunities for charitable organizations.
Pokes with a Purpose pairs student-athletes with community charities that will enable student-athletes to use their name, image and likeness (NIL) to raise awareness and funds for worthy charitable causes. The charities, chosen by the athletes or teams, will benefit from the media exposure and in turn help Oklahomans in need. The athletes will receive character building experiences and partnerships within their community as well as receive compensation for use of their NIL. Pokes with a Purpose will also be serving as a matchmaker for businesses and players.
The program is led by alumni and donors and supported by OSU wrestler, ESPN commentator and UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier ‘01, OSU football and former NFL players Brandon Weeden ’11 and Kenyatta Wright ‘99. Many donors, including Joe Eastin (also serving as chairman of the board), have stepped up to seed the program with the goal of supporting all OSU teams by helping players minimize their financial burdens as well as giving athletes the opportunity to learn valuable life skills.
Brandon Weeden, former OSU quarterback and NFL player, is helping with the launch.
“We’re different than most NIL collectives because we offer opportunities for ALL OSU recruited and walk-on athletes,” Weeden said. “The fact that this NIL helps all varsity sports, men and women, whether it be a full scholarship, partial scholarship, or a walk-on athlete, sets us apart from any collective out there…and reinforces the culture of family at OSU.”
Kenyatta Wright, OSU alumni and former NFL player, joins Weeden in supporting the organization’s NIL efforts.
“There is simply no place like Oklahoma State University…there is a respect and family mentality that has nurtured and furthered so many athletes through the years to play at a higher level,” Wright said. “This combined with unprecedented NIL opportunities should make OSU very attractive to any collegiate player.”
New NCAA rules and Oklahoma legislation state that NIL opportunities will not affect a student’s scholarship eligibility and also state that the university may not directly compensate for the athletes NIL usage. Therefore, alumni groups around the nation are taking on the challenge of working with college athletes for the first time.
“While many programs intend to solely monetize a player's NIL opportunities, Pokes with a Purpose will create intrinsic opportunities along with a hands-on experience in entrepreneurship and money management,” said OSU alumnus and board president Ed Raschen. “We want the athletes to be able to win in their sport but also win in life and an important part of winning in life is learning how to give.”
Pokes with a Purpose has 501(c)(3) status and donations are 100% tax deductible. To learn more about Pokes with a Purpose, visit pokeswithapurpose.com. Social media links include Instagram - pokeswithapurpose and Twitter - @pokespurpose. For more information, please contact the Pokes with a Purpose administrator at 918-407-9382 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.