Almost 80 PGA Tour caddies joined together to file a class-action lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Feb. 3, claiming the PGA Tour should be compelled to compensate caddies — both retroactively and going forward — for wearing bibs with the logos of corporate sponsors on them.
The suit, filed in the United States Northern District Court of California, home court to a number of key cases involving athletes including Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA for their use of the likeness of college athletes, says the PGA Tour benefits to the tune of $50 million annually in advertising related to the bibs, which are compulsory for caddies to wear under Tour regulations. The caddies say they never licensed the PGA Tour to use their likeness with corporate logos as part of any agreements made regulating caddie behavior and access.
The caddies, which, like players, are independent contractors and not PGA Tour employees, are subject to the same logo and endorsement regulations as players, offering general guidelines on permissible endorsements and the placement of logos. However, with bibs covering up a caddie’s torso and their upper leg, endorsing a product with a regulation-conforming logo on their clothes is difficult.
The suit further claims the Tour has threatened to prohibit caddies from obtaining endorsement deals with companies that may compete with PGA Tour sponsors.
Through the Tour, caddies are able to earn compensation for wearing hats with the logo of granola maker Nature Valley. The lawsuit implies the Tour then know caddies expect payment for endorsing a Tour sponsor and aim to apply the same implication to corporate logos on caddie bibs.
The group of caddies, including Paul Tesori (caddies for Webb Simpson), Damon Green (Zach Johnson), Kenny Harms (Kevin Na) and former Payne Stewart caddie Mike Hicks , claim the PGA Tour treats them as second-class citizens to players rather than an integral part of a player-caddie duo. The Tour has previously denied offering health and retirement benefits to caddies, 115 of which formed an association, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, in 2013 to formalize relations with the PGA Tour as a united organization.