AVP signs deal with players, Walsh Jennings still out

BOSTON (AP) The AVP said it has reached an agreement with ''practically all the players'' on a contract that will carry it through the 2020 Summer Games, even as a holdout by five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh threatens to deprive the domestic beach volleyball tour of its biggest name.

''I respect her decisions, and I wish her well,'' AVP owner Donald Sun told The Associated Press. ''But in the meantime, we're just geared up. All the athletes that are signed are fired up to play Huntington Beach next weekend.''

Walsh Jennings did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment. But she told the AP in March that negotiations were ''a work in progress'' and that the two sides were ''pretty far off.''

She also boycotted an AVP event last summer over experimental rules that she said weren't discussed with the athletes.

Each of the other seven Americans who went to the 2016 Olympics has signed, Sun said, except for Brooke Sweat. Sweat, who failed to make it out of group play in Rio de Janeiro with teammate Lauren Fendrick, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Sun told the AP that the tour has ''a four-year agreement with practically all the players, which is awesome.'' The deal includes a minimum of eight events per season and prize money minimums that will increase by at least 50 percent over the term of the deal, he said.

''It was a few months of process, discussing with individual players, groups of players, discussing what concerns they had,'' Sun said. ''We all made it. I think we're all pretty happy.''

Well, not everyone.

The rift with Walsh, a three-time gold medalist who won bronze with April Ross in 2016, was exposed when the tour released its 2017 schedule in March and her name wasn't among the list of those expected to participate.

Sun told the AP this week that the tour is prepared to proceed without Walsh Jennings, who has missed events previous summers because of injury, childbirth or to play on the international tour that determines Olympic qualification.

''It didn't seem to affect attendance, TV ratings, or viewership on line,'' Sun said. ''The AVP is not just one person or one athlete; if it was, it would be a very challenging business model.''

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