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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Athletes’ Advisory Council (AAC), an athlete-led group within the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), met this past weekend to discuss the possibility of forming a union, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: "The push for more compensation and influence by athletes long considered 'amateurs' is building in several corners of the sports world, including college athletics," writes the WSJ's Rachel Bachman.

  • "Now it's extending to Olympic sports, where an expanding global movement seeks to treat athletes like the professionals many of them have become."

On one side of the room was Sarah Hirshland, the newly-hired USOC president. She represents the status quo, in which administrators — not athletes — hold the power and make the big bucks.

  • The backdrop: Olympic athletes have long rebelled against the USOC, but the recent Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal raised the stakes. This is no longer about their influence and earning potential — it's about their safety and well-being.
  • "We are eager to change," USOC chairwoman Susanne Lyons told the athletes in the room. "We want to change, and we want to know what it is you want us to do."

On the other side was Donald Fehr, who led the MLB Players Association in its successful fight against ownership in the 1990s and is now executive director of the NHL Players Association.

  • "Just having him here, it lends a different level of credibility," said AAC chairman and table tennis athlete Han Xiao. "It recognizes that [athlete] leadership is serious."

The big picture, courtesy of former Olympic kayaker and past AAC chairman, Norm Bellingham:

"It feels almost like there's an Arab Spring taking place. Waiting for the people in power to implement appropriate changes is something athletes are less and less willing to tolerate."

The bottom line: "The USOC is essentially defrauding us, and our champions," the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins wrote last year.

  • It's supposed to be a nonprofit, yet 129 blazer-wearing staff members make over six figures, and 14 execs are paid more than $200,000 a year. Meanwhile, our Olympians are dead broke.

Go deeper: Doping cheats athletes of glory — and big paydays

Go deeper

48 mins ago - Health

Cuomo advisers reportedly altered July COVID-19 nursing homes report

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Seth Wenig/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.

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