March 4th, 2015 by Paul Fullerman
There’s an old adage in the golf world known as the “three ups” for caddies – show up, keep up, and shut up. Well, that final one is being put to the test. A month ago, more than 80 professional caddies filed a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against the PGA Tour. The issue at the heart of the lawsuit is whether the PGA Tour can compel caddies to wear “bibs” during tournaments and then retain the money made from advertising on the bibs. I always assumed the caddy bibs are just to hold their pencils and sandwiches for the golfer, but obviously I underestimated their worth; according to the lawsuit, the bibs are worth at least $50 million annually.
Although caddies are not employed by the PGA Tour (they are considered independent contractors, hired and retained by the golfer), caddies sign an endorsement policy with the PGA. The endorsement policy allows caddies to endorse products and services by wearing corporate logos on their personal attire. However, the PGA does not consider the bib to be part of the caddie’s attire (although the caddies are compelled to wear the bibs according to the lawsuit); and the bibs cover up much of the caddie’s available advertising space.
The caddies allege that they are prevented from earning advertising revenue they would otherwise be able to obtain if they didn’t have to wear the bibs. This case interests me on both a professional level as an accountant and on a personal level as I am an avid golfer. Assuming that they prevail on their liability arguments, the caddies will also need to present evidence of their damages – presumably related to the lost opportunity to sell advertising where the bibs currently cover their clothes.
The caddies have petitioned the court to certify this as a class action for all caddies in the US who wear or have worn bibs during tournaments, which could lead to a significant increase in the amount of damages the PGA Tour may potentially be liable for.
Check back here for updates on the case as it progresses. I know I will be watching golf and paying more attention to the bibs and the caddies that are wearing them, which I suppose could mean the value of the bibs just increased!
Would a victory by the caddies open the door for other athletes to sell advertising even if their leagues were opposed? Might baseball players start to look like NASCAR drivers? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Here is a link to an article from golf.com that further details the lawsuit: