U.S. Olympic Uniforms Made in China, Lawmakers React
While American athletes are hoping to bring home gold this summer, several politicians are trying to use the Olympic Games to bring something else back to the United States: jobs.
Last Thursday, the Associated Press reported that the red, white and blue uniforms to be worn by U.S. Olympic athletes had been manufactured in China. American clothing designer Ralph Lauren Corp. is a sponsor of the The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and was selected to create and provide Team USA's opening and closing ceremony uniforms. Ralph Lauren is also providing casual apparel for the athletes to wear in London while not competing.
"Today there are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country and the Olympic committee is outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms to China?" said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) "That is not just outrageous, it's just plain dumb. It is self-defeating,"
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) added, "You'd think they'd know better."
Several senators have agreed to create legislation that will require the USOC to purchase off of its official Olympic apparel from manufacturers in the United States. The "Team USA Made In America Act of 2012" is expected to be introduced this week.
The USOC defended its choice of designer, and in a statement said "Unlike most Olympic teams around the world, the U.S. Olympic team is privately funded and we're grateful for the support of our sponsors. We're proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company, and excited to watch America's finest athletes compete at the upcoming Games in London." The committee added that it has already reached an agreement with Ralph Lauren to ensure that the uniforms for the 2014 Winter Games will be made in America.
Embarrassment for the USOC was amplified when it was revealed that Olympic committees from other countries were looking to the U.S. for team uniforms. The New York Post reported Sunday that the Russian Olympic team has been in talks with supplier American Apparel since 2011. Russia's team approached the made-in-America brand to help in designing its 2014 uniforms.
"[Russian Olympic team representatives] said they didn't want anything that was made in China," American Apparel CEO Dov Charney told The Post. "It's not just for the uniforms—it's also the merchandise." Charney added that the USOC had not approached his company, well known for its domestic manufacturing, about creating apparel for Team USA.
This is not the first time the USOC has raised eyebrows with its sponsorship agreements. In 2010, the USOC signed German automaker BMW as a Team USA sponsor when General Motors was forced to withdraw sponsorship for financial reasons.