Attorneys representing a large group of professional golf caddies are asking an appeals court in San Francisco to reopen a lawsuit against the PGA Tour for forcing the caddies to act as human billboards without pay or benefits. Tour caddies are employed by Tour players and not the Tour, which does not provide health insurance, retirement or other benefits. Yesterday, The Lanier Law Firm filed an appeals court brief arguing that the case should proceed. The lawsuit filed in federal court alleges the caddies are being forced to wear aprons, also called “bibs,” which cover their shirts and include logos of Tour sponsors. The bibs cover valuable real estate on the caddies’ shirts that they otherwise could use to secure their own sponsors. Even though the lawsuit says the Tour receives more than $50 million in bib sponsorships annually, the caddies receive none of that money. According to the lawsuit, the PGA Tour is violating federal antitrust laws in addition to breaching its contracts with the caddies and reaping illegal profits by coercing them to advertise for the Tour for free. The caddies also say their likenesses and images have been unlawfully used by the Tour in its advertising.
When the world’s leading sports network says the PGA Tour treats caddies like ‘outside dogs,’ then you know there is a problem,” says attorney Richard D. Meadow, who represents the caddies. “Sure, caddies are told they can have their own sponsors, but what good does that do if they’re forced to cover their shirts with other sponsors who are paying them nothing and instead putting tens of millions of dollars in the Tour’s pocket? The caddies’ 66-page brief includes a series of reasons the case should be allowed to proceed, including claims that the trial court conducted an improper fact-finding expedition by focusing on assumptions, hypotheticals and other matters not included in the caddies’ lawsuit.