Judge Tosses $50 Million Lawsuit Filed by PGA Caddies Over Ad ‘Bibs’

AP Hunter Mahan John Wood
San Francisco, CA

A federal judge tossed out an attempt by a group of PGA caddies to get extra money for being forced to wear aprons or “bibs” featuring the advertising of PGA sponsors.

On Tuesday a federal judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed in 2015 by the group of caddies. The club-toting laborers sought an additional $50 million in extra compensation for wearing the advertising.

Caddies are typically seen on the greens and fairways of the PGA wearing advertising printed on thin aprons — often called bibs — worn over their own clothing. These bibs, fitting just under the caddy’s neck and carrying down to below his waist, are festooned with the logos of such companies as Travelers Insurance, Bridgestone Tires, Volvo, John Deere, various hotels and other tour sponsors.

The caddies contended that they should get a bigger piece of this advertising since they are required to walk around like human billboards but a federal judge disagreed and on February 9 he tossed their lawsuit seeking more compensation.

In his opinion Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said, “the caddies’ overall complaint about poor treatment by the Tour has merit, but this federal lawsuit about bibs does not.”

The class-action suit was spearheaded by Payne Stewart’s retired Tour caddie Mike Hicks who was joined by 167 other caddies.

In their suit the caddies insisted their contract didn’t specify that the PGA could force them to wear the bibs. Secondarily the suit claims the bibs are restrictive and can interfere with their freedom of movement as they carry out their duties. Lastly, they say the trunk-covering bibs also interfere with any advertising and sponsorship they are able to get on their own as the bib overpowers any other logos or ads they may want to wear.

The judge, though, held that the caddies’ “right to publicity” didn’t stand up because they have consented to wearing the bibs in the first place not to mention that they’ve all signed contracts giving the PGA the right to their likeness and images.

“Caddies have been required to wear the bibs for decades,” Chhabria wrote in his decision. “So caddies know when they enter the profession, that wearing a bib during tournaments is part of the job. … for that reason, there is no merit to the caddies’ contention that contracts somehow prevent the Tour from requiring them to wear bibs.”

“It is therefore implausible that the caddies did not consent to the Tour’s commercial use of their likenesses in televising and otherwise depicting the caddies participating in Tour events wearing the bibs,” the judge wrote.

When it was all said and done, one caddy told GolfChannel.com that he’d rather not appeal the decision as there has already been too much contention between caddies and the Tour since the suit was filed in 2015.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com