By Steve Ginsburg
(Reuters) - Professional caddies have filed a class action lawsuit against the PGA Tour, contending they were forced to wear bibs featuring corporate logos and other advertisements that generate millions of dollars for the tour without giving them any compensation.
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. federal court in California, says the PGA Tour threatened to prevent the caddies from working at tournaments organized and promoted by the organization if they refused to wear the bibs.
The lawsuit claims the PGA Tour reaps more than $50 million annually from the endorsements, but the caddies receive no compensation.
"Caddies receive none of that revenue and never have consented to (the PGA Tour's) commercial use of their likenesses and images," the lawsuit says.
The caddies, who are seeking a permanent injunction against the practice, help players select clubs and read the greens during tournaments.
Mike Hicks, the lead plaintiff, has been a caddy for nearly 35 years and has worked for prominent golfers including Greg Norman, Payne Stewart, Steve Stricker and Justin Leonard.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all caddies in the United States who wear or have worn bibs with the logos of the PGA Tour's sponsors.
The lawsuit, which claims the PGA Tour interfered with the caddies' ability to compete in the market, alleges antitrust violations, breach of contract and violations of California state law.
According to the lawsuit, the PGA Tour contacted tour golfers to determine if they would be "willing to terminate their agreements with caddies who refuse to wear the bibs."
A spokesman for the PGA Tour declined comment, citing pending litigation.
The lawsuit comes after a federal judge in California ruled in August that the NCAA must allow schools to give athletes some of the money they bring in by licensing their name, image and likeness to companies.
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Will Dunham)