My second favorite golf major, The Masters, starts tomorrow in Augusta, Georgia. And as much as I dislike its history of racism, misogyny, and banning an announcer because he used the terms “bikini-waxed” and “body bags” during a Masters telecast, the fact of the matter is that The Masters is basically a crotchety old man who takes himself too seriously and I like seeing him every spring.
Like any other tradition in America, The Masters has played a role in a number of lawsuits and since using the name “Tiger Woods” automatically leads to more views, I’m going to talk about the Masters lawsuit that involved him. Back in 1997, Tiger Woods won his first Masters and between his personal hype, the fact that he was the first African-American winner of a tournament that had a less-than-stellar racial history, and his absolute domination of the field, it was a big deal. Rick Rush, who self-proclaims that he is ”America’s Sports Artist,” captured the moment in his painting, The Masters of Augusta.
Tiger Woods, who was notoriously protective of his image (I haven’t checked in with him since the late 90s, everything is still cool on that front, right?), sued Rush, claiming that Rush was inappropriately profiting off his image. This resulted in a classic art v. commercialism courtroom battle. Rush claimed that the painting was his art and Tiger responded that, “yeah, but it’s of me, so you can’t sell it without my approval.” Both the district court and the court of appeals that looked at the case used phrases like First Amendment and fair use a lot before ultimately decided that Rush was right.