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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Athletes Unlimited — a network of women's sports leagues that launched in 2020 with softball and has since added volleyball, lacrosse and basketball — just upped the ante on player empowerment.

Driving the news: Volleyball star Cassidy Lichtman is joining the Athletes Unlimited board of directors, Axios has learned. This makes her the first active athlete to serve on a pro sports league's board.

  • Lichtman, a standout for Stanford and Team USA, competed in Athletes Unlimited's inaugural 2021 volleyball season and will play in Season 2, starting March 16.
  • She will serve a one-year term as the board's athlete representative, a seat that will be voted on by the players going forward.
  • Former USTA president Katrina Adams has also been added to the board, joining co-founders Jon Patricof, Jonathan Soros and Salil Seshadri.

What they're saying: "When Athletes Unlimited says they are an athlete-led organization, they mean it," says Lichtman.

  • "As a player and a member of the Player Executive Committee for volleyball, I have been able to experience what it means to genuinely have a seat at the table."
  • "It is incredibly empowering as an athlete, particularly a female athlete, and has really opened my eyes to what the relationship between athletes and a league can look like."

The big picture: Volleyball is one of the most popular girls high school sports. Now, the largest professional league in the U.S. has an active female athlete on its board, helping shape the sport's present and future.

Coming soon ... Athletes Unlimited's new basketball league launches next month, with a handful of WNBA players set to compete.

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2022 - Sports

Ultra-strict lockdowns preview what's in store for Beijing Olympics

An outdoor rink in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China. Photo: Huang Jinkun/VCG via Getty Images

With the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning three weeks from today, ultra-strict lockdowns in Chinese cities provide a glimpse of what the games' protocols will look like.

State of play: China may be the last country on Earth still adhering to a "zero COVID" policy. Rather than relying on vaccines and carefully reopening, China's goal is still to contain the virus via lockdowns.

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker