Five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings has not yet committed to play in AVP events this summer, leading the domestic beach volleyball tour to announce its 2017 schedule without including the game's top draw among "the most respected names in the sport" who are expected to participate.
"We're in contract negotiations and we're pretty far off right now," Walsh Jennings said in a text message to The Associated Press. "We are working toward a win-win for everyone & the sport."
A three-time gold medalist who won the bronze medal with partner April Ross at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Walsh Jennings also has been an advocate for athletes' rights in the national governing body and the domestic tour. Last summer, she boycotted the season-ending event in Chicago over rule changes she said were made without consulting the athletes.
Her absence would be a blow to a tour that has struggled to capitalize on the Olympic spotlight in the years between Summer Games. Walsh Jennings called the negotiations "a work in progress."
Established in 1983, the AVP tour will begin in Huntington Beach, California, in May this year and end on Labor Day weekend in Chicago. It will include Manhattan Beach, California, where past winners have their name added to the Volleyball Walk of Fame.
It will also include less traditional beach volleyball markets such as Seattle and New York. The tour also returns to Hermosa Beach, California, for the first time since 2010 and to Austin, Texas, for the first time since 2005.
The featured names in the announcement include Ross and fellow Olympians Phil Dalhausser, Xi Zhang and Jake Gibbs. Asked why Walsh Jennings wasn't listed among them -- she is included in a section on the tour's history -- AVP owner Donald Sun told the AP that "the athlete schedules are always in flux."
"Until they register, especially in a non-Olympic year, it is hard to say right now who is playing which events specifically," he said. "All athletes are welcome and can be a part of the business we are growing, and we are looking forward to a great summer."
Walsh Jennings has three children and has said she wants more. Asked if she would be skipping the tour to retire, boycott or have another baby, Walsh Jennings said "None of the above" and reaffirmed her plans to compete in the 2020 Olympics, when she would turn 42.
"I'm planning on playing through Tokyo," she wrote. "Finish with a win there and see what's next."