Hank Haney is taking on the PGA Tour.
The former golf coach and current on-air personality filed a lawsuit against PGA Tour, Inc. Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Haney is seeking damages for harm he says the PGA Tour caused by allegedly interfering with his show on SiriusXM’s PGA Tour Radio station.
In his lawsuit, Haney claims the PGA Tour had “long-standing animus” toward him dating from a desire to “settle an old score” relating to his 2012 book, “The Big Miss,” about his relationship with Tiger Woods, whom he coached for six years.
“Ever since Hank had the courage to write his book about Tiger Woods, he’s been subjected to varying degrees of punishment by the PGA Tour,” said Haney’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, in an interview Wednesday, “and I think Hank came to the conclusion that enough was enough.”
The lawsuit alleges the PGA Tour forced its Superstores and other shops to cancel orders of Haney’s book, directed the Golf Channel in 2013 to discontinue Haney’s TV show, the “Haney Project,” and later convinced sponsors to discontinue relationships with Haney.
As a matter of practice, the PGA Tour does not comment on pending litigation.
“The PGA Tour, in my experience, is litigious and aggressive in lawsuits, so I can’t tell you it’s going to move along quickly,” added Ginsberg, who represented Jonathan Vilma in the New Orleans Saints “BountyGate” cases and Ray Rice in his successful challenge of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary authority. In golf, Ginsberg represented Vijay Singh against the PGA Tour, alleging the Tour violated its duty of fair dealing in administering its disciplinary process.
“We did everything we could to explore the facts and what we’ve put in the complaint are consistent with the facts,” Ginsberg said. “So if people are skeptical or questioning the animosity based on the book, all I can say is stay tuned, follow the lawsuit and I’m confident we’ll be able to prove the allegations.”
The allegations stem from a controversy surrounding the U.S. Women’s Open in May. Haney was originally suspended, then dismissed at the PGA Tour’s instruction, from his show with Steve Johnson due to insensitive comments about the potential winner of the Open:
Johnson: “This week is the 74th U.S. Women’s Open, Hank.”
Haney: “Oh it is? I’m gonna predict a Korean.”
Johnson, laughing: “OK, that’s a pretty safe bet.”
Haney: “I couldn’t name you six players on the LPGA Tour. Maybe I could. Well … I’d go with Lee. If I didn’t have to name a first name, I’d get a bunch of them right.”
Haney, who instructed more than 200 tour professionals throughout his career, issued an apology after facing backlash in the media and from players such as Michelle Wie. Haney’s lawsuit states SiriusXM accepted the apology for his remarks and agreed there would be minimal, if any, consequences.
“Sirius understood that Hank made an unintentional, flippant and insensitive comment and accepted his apology,” said Ginsberg. “Consistent with the (PGA Tour’s) efforts over the last few years since Hank wrote his book about Tiger Woods, the PGA seized on that mistake by Hank and exercised this kind of domination that it has over media outlets who cover golf and extracted a terrible punishment on Hank, which was totally out of proportion with Hank had said.”
The lawsuit claims that his dismissal “cost [Haney] advertising revenues that would have amounted to millions of dollars over the life of the agreement.”
As part of his deal with Sirius, which was signed in November 2017 and was set to continue until Feb. 15, 2021, Haney received $250,000 per year plus a percentage of the advertising revenue generated by the program.
He made $463,931 from net advertising revenue for the year ending Dec. 31, 2018, according to the lawsuit. For the four months ending April 30, 2019, he earned $364,141 from net advertising revenue.
Callaway, one of Haney’s largest collaborators, declined to renew its agreement with Haney when it expired in December 2019. The lawsuit states Callaway “felt compelled to decline a renewal because of the loss of Haney’s position broadcasting with Sirius XM. Had Haney been allowed to complete the term of the Agreement, Callaway would have renewed its collaboration agreement with Haney.”
Since his dismissal, Haney has a new podcast on iHeart Radio.