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PGA Tour caddies lose class-action lawsuit claiming they are used as unpaid 'human billboards'


By Tony Connelly, Sports Marketing Reporter

February 11, 2016 | 3 min read

The PGA Tour has won a class-action lawsuit brought against it by more than 80 caddies who claimed they were used as unpaid “human billboards” and deserved a cut of the ad revenue generated from their uniform.

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Mike Hicks, who has caddied for Payne Stewart and Greg Norman as well as 80 other professional golfers, brought the case before a federal judge at the United States Northern District Court of California.

The Hicks vs PGA Tour lawsuit argued that caddies should be entitled to compensation from the PGA Tour because the bibs they are made to wear while on course feature the logo of its title sponsor, making them unpaid “human billboards”. Lawyers acting on behalf of the caddies estimated that the marketing value which the Tour generated from the bibs was around $50m.

The same court had previously ruled in favour of UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s when he sued the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) for preventing college athletes from selling individual marketing rights.

However District Judge Vince Chhabria threw out the case based on the fact that the caddies, who are employed by the golfers and not the Tour, had signed a contract in which they had agreed to wear uniforms and identification badges prescribed by the tournament and the Tour.

In his ruling Chhabria wrote: “In other words, for decades, the bib has been the primary part of the 'uniform' that the Tour requires caddies to wear.”

He added: “The only reasonable interpretation of the contract is that the caddies agreed the Tour could make them wear bibs.”

Chhabria did however concede that caddies overall complaint about poor treatment by the Tour “has merit” based on the fact that they are not allowed in the clubhouses and at some tournaments are not even allowed in the locker room.

Richard Meadow of Lanier Law Firm, which represents the caddies, said he would look into grounds for an appeal and added that he was “pleased the court acknowledged that the caddies are treated poorly by the PGA Tour and hope that the Tour takes that to heart and begins to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

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