A federal judge has ruled that swing coach Hank Haney's lawsuit against the PGA Tour can proceed and denied the tour's motion to dismiss the complaint, in which Haney claims the tour pressured SiriusXM Radio to suspend him and then terminate him from hosting his radio show after his comments about women's golf last year.
Haney, who is best known for working with Tiger Woods, sued the PGA Tour in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in December, alleging tortious interference with contract and tortious interference with business relations.
"The Court, having reviewed the parties' submissions, the record, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, finds that the allegations teed up in this case -- like a well-hit drive on the golf course -- have avoided pleading hazards under Rule 12(b)(6), remained in bounds, and left Plaintiffs with an opportunity to take their next shot," U.S. District Court Judge Rodolfo A. Ruiz II wrote in his decision.
Haney was originally suspended from his radio show in May for what the PGA Tour and SiriusXM said were insensitive comments about women's golf.
"I'm pleased with the court's decision," Haney said in a statement to Golf Digest. "It allows us to move forward and prove our case. Discovery will show the evidence in our favor is overwhelming and indisputable, and evidences a disturbing influence the PGA Tour exercises in the golf world, including on media outlets. I'm looking forward to our day in court."
While previewing the 74th U.S. Women's Open, Haney said, "I'm gonna predict a Korean [to win]. "... That's gonna be my prediction. I couldn't name you, like, six players on the LPGA Tour."
Haney continued: "Nah, 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."
After noticing criticism on social media, Haney apologized during the show and later issued a formal apology for his comments, in which he wrote, "[I] made some comments about women's professional golf and its players that were insensitive and that I regret. In an effort to make a point about the overwhelming success of Korean players on the tour I offended people and I am sorry."
According to Haney's lawsuit, the PGA Tour had "long attempted to disrupt and interfere in Haney's business" after the release of his 2012 book "The Big Miss," which documented his relationship with Woods, whom he coached from 2004 to 2010. The suit also alleges that the firing cost Haney advertising revenue that "would have amounted to millions of dollars over the life of the agreement."
According to the PGA Tour's motion to dismiss, Haney's contract with SiriusXM was scheduled to expire on Feb. 15, 2021.
The PGA Tour's lawyers argued in an earlier motion that Haney and his attorneys failed to prove that the Tour "unjustifiably interfered with Plaintiffs' business and/or contractual relationship with Sirius XM" and failed to prove that the decision to fire him was "based on anything other than [the radio network's] own review of Haney's racist, xenophobic, and sexist comments about the LPGA and its players."
"In sum, Plaintiffs refuse to take ownership of Haney's own ignorant and ill-advised comments and the resulting ramifications therefrom and instead have filed this suit, which is nothing more than an improper fishing expedition to try to deflect blame elsewhere," the PGA Tour's lawyers wrote in an earlier motion to dismiss. "Accordingly, this lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice."