Five-time Olympian Walsh Jennings files suit against AVP

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Three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, shown at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games in Chaoyang Beach park/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings recently filed a lawsuit against the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) over unpaid monies as part of a sponsorship agreement.

The website Law360.com reported earlier this week Walsh Jennings filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court looking to recover $150,000 she said is owed to her as part of a three-year contract she signed with the AVP in February 2013 for the company to use her name, likeness and “other indicia” of her identity in exchange for $450,000.

The complaint stated that the AVP made two $50,000 payments to Walsh Jennings each in 2013, 2014 and 2015, but did not remit two $75,000 payments in 2016.

“The complaint really speaks for itself,” Walsh Jennings told VolleyballMag.com Friday night. “AVP agreed in writing to pay me $150,000 in two equal payments on January 1 and July 1 2016, in return for me allowing AVP to use my name and likeness to make media appearances. They still haven’t paid. We tried to persuade AVP to honor their obligations without filing a lawsuit. They refused, which left me with no alternative but to sue.”

Law360.com also reported the agreement stated in addition to granting the AVP use of her likeness, Walsh Jennings’ contract required her to make herself available three days per year to shoot public-service announcements with mutually agreeable charitable or corporate partners and to promote AVP at events run by other organizations. The lawsuit said she fulfilled all obligations under the agreement. Additionally, Law360.com reported the suit contains a single cause of action for breach of written contract and it seeks the remaining payments she is allegedly owed, plus attorneys’ fees, costs and interest.

AVP owner Donald Sun did not respond to a VolleyballMag.com request for comment Friday.

Walsh Jennings, 38, won beach-volleyball gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2012 with Misty May-Treanor and won a bronze last summer with April Ross. Walsh Jennings is a five-time Olympian, having played indoors in 2000.

Walsh Jennings ranks first all-time in career earnings among women’s beach volleyball players with $2,553,135 — $1,086,778 coming from AVP competitions. Walsh Jennings is the all-time winningest women’s beach player with 133 career first-place finishes.

Walsh Jennings also revealed negotiations continue with the AVP concerning the 2017 player contract just weeks ahead of the tour’s opening event in early May.

“With regard to the player contract, we are currently preparing to negotiate the terms,” she told VolleyballMag.com. “As of now, the contract is un-signable, but I am hopeful the players can come to terms that result in a win-win for the tour, the athletes and for the future of the sport.”

Walsh Jennings and her husband, men’s beach player Casey Jennings, boycotted last fall’s AVP stop in Chicago due to the tour’s decision to try out a pair of new rules at the event, something Walsh Jennings stated in a lengthy Facebook post was done without “honestly or meaningfully discussing it with the Player Committee or the athletes on the AVP tour.”
Walsh Jennings, represented by attorney Alan Jay Weil of Kendall Brill & Kelly LLP, stressed the two items — the lawsuit and the player contract negotiations — are not related.

“These are two totally separate issues,” she said.

The AVP is slated to kick off its season May 4-7 in Huntington Beach, Calif. The tour also is scheduled to make stops in Austin, Texas (May 18-21), New York City (June 8-11), Seattle (June 22-25), San Francisco (July 6-9), Hermosa Beach, Calif. (July 20-23), Manhattan Beach, Calif. (Aug. 17-20) and Chicago (Aug. 31-Sept. 3; AVP championships).

Click here for our September story regarding Walsh Jennings’ decision to skip the AVP Chicago tour stop.

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