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Professional Golf Caddies Sue PGA Tour Over Unpaid Endorsements

4.08pm 13th February 2015 - Sponsorship & Events - This story was updated on Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Kenny Harms with Kevin Na and Gary Player
Kenny Harms with Kevin Na and Gary Player

A group of more than 80 professional golf caddies who work for some of the highest-profile golfers in the world have filed a federal lawsuit against the PGA Tour based on an unpaid endorsement scheme valued at $50 million per year in corporate sponsorships.

Although the caddies have never consented to or been paid for the use of their likenesses, they say the PGA Tour forces them to serve as human billboards by requiring them to wear logo-covered “bibs” over their shirts during tournaments. All the proceeds from the bib sponsorships go directly to the PGA Tour and the caddies receive nothing.

The caddies say the bibs cause them to miss out on their own endorsement deals and prevent them from earning sponsorship dollars that could be used for family health insurance and retirement plans. PGA Tour officials previously polled professional players about whether they would be willing to fire their caddies if they refuse to wear the bibs, according to the complaint.

“This lawsuit is intended to protect the rights of caddies who are required to endorse tour sponsors with zero compensation from the PGA Tour,” says sports law attorney Eugene “Gene” Egdorf of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston, lead counsel for the caddie plaintiffs. “Any working professional deserves to be paid based on the income they generate, but that’s not happening on the PGA Tour.”

Professional caddies Mike Hicks and Kenny Harms are named as the lead plaintiffs, and they are joined by more than 80 others who are seeking class-action status for the nearly 1,000 caddies who work on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Tour. The caddies are seeking past and future compensation from the PGA Tour in the legal filing entered on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The lawsuit details the unique position occupied by professional caddies, who work as independent contractors and receive no health insurance, retirement or other benefits from the PGA Tour.

In addition to demanding to be paid for their forced endorsement work, the caddies also are asking the court to enter a preliminary injunction that would prevent the PGA Tour from hampering the caddies’ ability to work at future tournaments while the case is pending.

The case is Hicks, et al. v. PGA Tour Inc., No. 3-15-CV-00489.

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