Hank Haney, Tiger Woods' former instructor, is suing the PGA Tour with claims the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.-based organization intimidated SiriusXM into firing him from his radio show on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio.
In the lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Haney claims the PGA Tour "improperly intimidated, enticed and threatened SiriusXM Radio to suspend and ultimately terminate" Haney and his show, "Hank Haney Golf Radio."
In May, Haney came under fire for a segment on his show dismissing the US Women's Open and mocking top-ranked Korean players. With co-host Steve Johnson, Haney claimed an ignorance of LPGA Tour players.
Steve Johnson: This week is the 74th U.S. Women’s Open, Hank.
Hank Haney: Oh it is?
SJ: The 74th. The 74th U.S. Women’s Open.
HH: I’m gonna predict a Korean.
SJ: [Laughs] OK, that’s a pretty safe bet.
HH: I couldn’t name you six players on the LPGA Tour. Maybe I could. Well… I’d go with Lee, if I didn’t have to name a first name, I’d get a bunch of them right.
SJ: We’ve got 6 Lees.
HH: Honestly, Michelle Wie is hurt… I don’t know anybody … Where are they playing by the way?
SJ: Country Club of Charleston.
HH: That’s a good course, that’s a good course.
Haney apologized for the remarks later in the same show, but the reaction on Twitter from listeners, pro golfers and media alike was unrelenting.
Haney was then suspended by SiriusXM, who hired Haney for the show, for the segment.
Woods, who was the subject of Haney's 2012 book about their time together called "The Big Miss," said his former teacher's punishment fit his crime.
"He deserved it," Woods said. "Just can't look at life like that. And he obviously said what he meant, and he got what he deserved."
After Jeongeun Lee6 won the US Women's Open, Haney alarmingly claimed vindication.
Ultimately, Haney was fired and lost his show. He has since returned to broadcasting through a podcast. However, Haney is suing the PGA Tour, in part alleging they were not a party to his agreement with SiriusXM. Haney claims SiriusXM did not plan on suspending or terminating their agreement with Haney until the PGA Tour, whose has a licensing agreement with SiriusXM to put its name on their golf channel, influenced the satellite radio broadcaster.
In jointly announcing the suspension, SiriusXM and the PGA Tour said it was the Tour who initiated the suspension.
"Mr. Haney's comments on women's professional golf were insensitive and do not represent the views of the PGA Tour or SiriusXM," read the statement. "The PGA Tour is committed to and proud of the increasingly diverse makeup of our fan base, not to mention the power and accomplishments of the game's world-class, global palyers - both on the PGA Tour and LPGA, whom we are working with more closely than ever before. SiriusXM proudly covers and supports both women's and men's golf and the athletes that make them great. At the PGA Tour's instruction Mr. Haney has been suspended from the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio channel. SiriusXM is reviewing his status on SiriusXM going forward."
The lawsuit also alleges the PGA Tour sabotaged several of Haney's business opportunities, leading to the cancellation of his Golf Channel show "The Haney Project," terminating a project with Avis car rental and suppressing sales of "The Big Miss," particularly through the separately owned PGA Tour Superstore. Through his attorney, Haney claims the Tour "wanted to settle an old score relating to professional golfer Tiger Woods" and "long attempted to disrupt and interfere in Haney's business."
Haney is seeking a seven-figure judgment in compensatory and punitive damages.
The pro claims his radio show's advertising revenue "would have amounted to millions of dollars over the life of the agreement" in addition to other lost opportunities. Haney claims he was making a base salary of $250,000 for his radio show, along with a cut of the show's ad revenue. In 2018, Haney claims, he made approximately $464,000 from ad revenue and had earned approximately $364,000 through April 2019. Callaway Golf declined to renew their endorsement deal with Haney at the end of 2019, in large part, the lawsuit claims, over Haney losing his SiriusXM show.
On the punitive side, Haney believes the "PGA Tour’s intentional tortious conduct" entitles him to further compensation, including for the damage to his reputation.
In this suit, Haney is represented by Rice Pugatch Robinson & Schiller, P.A. of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Peter Ginsburg of Sullivan & Worcester LLP, who successfully sued the PGA Tour on behalf of Vijay Singh over his controversial 2013 suspension (which was retracted) from the PGA Tour over admitted use of deer-antler spray.
Will Hank Haney win his case?
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