"The culture has to change," Arluck said. "There's always been a lot of talk about unionizing. But nothing has really happened. That's a real shame."
For a start, Hall suggested, how about setting aside 5 percent of all TV revenues for the men and women we're actually watching on the tube? NBC will be paying $4.38 billion for U.S. broadcast rights at the next four Olympics. Using Hall's modest figure, that would create an athletes' pool of $219 million — which breaks down to roughly about $8,400 per athlete (the Summer Games are supposed to be capped at 10,500 athletes, while the much-smaller Winter Games generally have about 2,500). The number grows when rights fees from the rest of the world are factored in.
Morgenstein said the figure should be much higher — a minimum of 45 percent of the television revenues going to the athletes, more in line with the labor agreements for the major U.S. professional leagues.
"All the executives in the blue blazers are clinking their glasses of wine at their retreats," the agent said. "The athletes are nothing more than indentured servants. That's the hideous truth of the Olympic movement."
But give the guys who run the movement credit: They've managed to persuade athletes the world over, both rich and poor, that competing for love of country should be enough. It's a concept that many find hard to shake, even if they clearly understand the concept of fair compensation in their regular jobs.
"It's not about the money to me," said Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who has competed in three Winter Games for his native Finland. "It's an honor. You represent your country. And that's pretty much all I need."
Here's hoping a certain Miami Heat guard returns to the fray, bearing a different message.
"Dwyane Wade is a hero," Morgenstein said. "Believe me, there are plenty of athletes who want to scream out to him, 'Don't get on the lifeboat and leave us on a ship that's going down. Take us with you.' I'm hoping that someone will hear his voice. He could the messiah of Olympic athletes."
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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