Caddies launch lawsuit against PGA Tour over bib branding

A group of caddies from golf’s PGA Tour have filed a class-action lawsuit against the organisation relating to the issue of branding on their bibs at tournaments.

Caddies are obliged to wear bibs featuring PGA Tour sponsors at competitions but are not compensated for this, with the suit estimating such sponsorships to be worth around $50m (€44.1m) in endorsement revenue.

The suit was filed at the United States Northern District Court of California on behalf of 81 caddies – the same court where UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon successfully sued the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) for preventing college athletes from selling individual marketing rights.

Gene Egdorf, the Houston-based lawyer representing the caddies said in a statement: “This lawsuit is intended to protect the rights of caddies who are required to endorse tour sponsors with zero compensation from the PGA Tour. Any working professional deserves to be paid based on the income they generate, but that's not happening on the PGA Tour.”

The lawsuit casts light on a number of issues related to a perceived deterioration of the relationship between caddies and the Tour. According to the suit, the PGA Tour denies caddies access to pension plans and basic health care and it is alleged that players have been contacted by the governing body over whether they would be prepared to sack caddies who do not wear bibs with tournament branding. Caddies are employed individually by players, who are considered independent contractors.

The caddies of leading players Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are not involved in the lawsuit, although they are understood to be broadly supportive of their colleagues. Woods’ caddy Joe LaCava is a board member on the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

When contacted by the Associated Press news agency and CBS Sports, the PGA Tour declined to comment on the issue.