Caddy Smack

The PGA Tour is a billion-dollar business led by recovering-attorney-turned-commissioner Tim Finchem. Based on its affiliations with several charities, the Tour operates as a non-profit entity, which ensures millions of dollars in tax breaks every year. Those savings help the Tour provide professional golfers with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual tournament payouts and a yearly salary for Finchem eclipsing $5 million. The Tour’s pocketbook also isn’t hurt by the fact that many of the people who work at its events are unpaid volunteers affiliated with charity partners.

Despite the PGA Tour’s ability to avoid taxes and turn players into multimillionaires, it seems there’s not much left in the kitty for one group of workers who make far less than the players themselves. We’re talking, of course, about the caddies, who recently filed a lawsuit over being required to wear so called “bibs,” which cover the valuable space on their shirts that otherwise could be sold for corporate sponsorships.

According to the lawsuit, the PGA Tour makes roughly $50 million each year for including corporate logos on the bibs that the Tour requires caddies to wear, while the caddie themselves actually make, well, nothing.  Not a dime.  Instead, the caddies work for the players themselves, but they’ve acquiesced to the Tour’s demand that they wear the bibs for years for fear that not doing so would put them, or their player employers, in peril. That was until the recent lawsuit was filed.

The highest-profile caddie in the world, Steve Williams of “I-used-to-be-Tiger Woods’-caddie” fame, recently joined the lawsuit and told reporters he was fined by the PGA Tour seven different times at $500 a pop during one season for taking off his bib on the 18th hole of various tournaments. Williams, a multimillionaire himself, certainly had the money to pay up. However, risking such fines is unthinkable for the many caddies who actually lose money when they work a tournament where their player doesn’t finish high on the leader board.

Thanks to lawyers, this may change.  Lawyers are often accused of stirring up trouble, but here they are doing what they do best:  representing the little guy.  We don’t know if the caddies will ultimately prevail and be allowed to share in some of the massive revenue that they help make possible, but thanks to lawyers they will get the chance to make their case.    

 

Posted: 3/31/2015 11:52:11 AM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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