PGA Tour Tells Ninth Circuit that Caddies Appeal in Human Billboard Case Does Not Make the Cut
On July 15, 2016, the PGA Tour filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit arguing that the trial court was correct when it dismissed a lawsuit brought by PGA Tour caddies. Previously, a California federal court tossed the proposed class action lawsuit by the caddies claiming that by forcing the caddies to wear bibs of the PGA Tour sponsors they are covering clothing on their chests and treating them like human billboards which is an abuse of power. The Trial court dismissed the suit and recently the caddies urged the Ninth Circuit to reconsider.
Back in 2015, PGA Tour caddies filed an anti-trust class action lawsuit against the PGA Tour. They alleged that by forcing them to wear bibs with corporate sponsors their likeness and image are being misappropriated for commercial activities. Further, they allege that even though they act as human billboards they get no share of the $50 million annual revenue those advertisements on the bibs generate. Secondly, the caddies argue that because the caddy’s bibs cover the entire upper body potential sponsors will not offer endorsement deals to the caddies because there is no place to put the logos. They argue that the bibs place a massive restriction on their potential earnings by covering up valuable advertising space in the marketplace. Based on their arguments, the caddies take issue with the trial court judge’s heavy use of assumptions and other judicially noticed facts to reach his conclusion against these assertions.
The PGA Tour disagrees and in their brief argues that the extrinsic evidence did not even factor into the opinion and, even if it did, the courts routinely consider proper evidence on matters of public record. Moreover, the PGA Tour agreed with the district court that the contract between the PGA Tour and its caddies is not ambiguous and clearly dictates the appearance of the caddies and provides for no specific dress rights while on tournament broadcasts. Finally, the PGA Tour sees no issue in the judge deciding that caddies wearing bibs for decades creates precedent that the wearing of bibs is common practice akin to consent of a dress code.
While the district court judge did make a point to note the current dress code does leave very little real estate for caddies to seek endorsements the PGA Tour asserts that the caddies claims are as similarly unfounded today as they were in the district court previously.