Professional Golf Caddies File Appeal in California PGA Tour Lawsuit

Caddies treated like ‘outside dogs,’ ask court to reopen case over publicity rights

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorneys representing 168 professional golf caddies in California federal court have filed an appeal seeking to overturn a ruling that dismissed the caddies’ claims against the PGA Tour Inc. for forcing them to act as human billboards without pay.

The lawsuit alleges that 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 no money. The caddies also say their likenesses and images have been unlawfully used by the Tour in its advertising.

The case originally was filed in January 2015 on behalf of professional caddie Michael Hicks and others who have been 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.

The lawsuit says the Tour receives more than $50 million in bib sponsorships annually although the caddies receive none of that money. Caddies are employed by Tour players and not the Tour, which does not provide caddies with any health insurance, retirement or other benefits.

“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 of The Lanier Law Firm, 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’ claims were dismissed in February by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, but the June 15 filing in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals argues that the dismissal was made in error.

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.

The case is William Michael Hicks, et al. v. PGA Tour Inc., No. 16-15370.

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