PGA Tour Caddies File Class Action Lawsuit Over Caddy Bibs

Posted on February 4th, 2015 by sutteroconnell

 

Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy: “This is everything, ain’t it?  This is the choice it comes down to – this is our immortality.”

Romeo Psar (caddy): “You don’t need to be thinking immortality – you need to be thinking hit the 7 iron!”               —Tin Cup

Caddies are integral to the game of golf.  In addition to knowing the exact yardage and reading the greens on every hole, caddies also serve as coaches, strategists, general assistants, cheerleaders, counselors, and friends.

A group of PGA Tour caddies have filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California seeking compensation from the Tour for being required to wear caddy bibs with various logos during tournament rounds.  It is the same venue where O’Bannon v. NCAA was filed, which challenged the NCAA’s use of the images of former student athletes for commercial purposes.  On August 8, 2014, the court found for O’Bannon, holding that the NCAA rules and bylaws operated as an unreasonable restraint of trade, in violation of antitrust law.

Caddies are not employed by the PGA Tour – they are employed by the tour players.  There is no PGA-sponsored health insurance or retirement plan for PGA Tour caddies.  The Association of Professional Tour Caddies (“APTC”) was formed last year.  The APTC attempted to negotiate a deal with the PGA Tour to receive a portion of the endorsement revenue from advertisements on bibs to establish health insurance and retirement benefits for caddies.

Caddies are required on the PGA Tour, as players do not have the option of taking golf carts.  Caddies are required to wear the bibs during tournament rounds, and the rule is strictly enforced by PGA Tour tournament officials.  A PGA Tour caddy is compensated based on his individual agreement with the Tour player, and the typical arrangement is that the caddy receives a percentage of the player’s winnings.  Whether or not the caddy is reimbursed for travel and other related expenses depends on the agreement with his player.

The complaint alleges that the caddies have been forced to wear the logos of the PGA Tour’s corporate sponsors without remuneration.  It seeks to preclude the PGA Tour from forcing caddies to provide these endorsement services gratuitously in the future.   The Plaintiffs estimate that the value of the bibs is approximately $50 million annually, and that the caddies received none of that revenue and have never even consented to the PGA Tour’s commercial use of their likeness and images.  The Plaintiffs approached the PGA Tour to discuss compensation for the bib, but the Tour has refused to negotiate.  The complaint further alleges that the PGA Tour has always known that the caddies expect payment for wearing corporate logos.  For example, one of the PGA Tour’s sponsors is Nature Valley (granola bars), and if a caddy wears the cap bearing the Nature Valley logo during tournament play throughout the season, the caddy is compensated based on how often he wears the cap and where the player finishes after each tournament.

The complaint alleges violation of the Sherman Act, right of publicity/misappropriation of likeness, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, duress/business compulsion, and California’s unfair competition law.  The lead plaintiffs in the proposed class are Mike Hicks (caddy for Josh Teater) and Kenny Harms (caddy for Kevin Na), but the class also includes high-profile caddies Paul Tesori (Webb Simpson), Jimmy Johnson (Steve Stricker), and Damon Green (Zach Johnson).