Blog: Leonie BarrieAn Olympic-sized row over US uniforms

Leonie Barrie | 20 July 2012

"We don't outsource the athletes who represent the US in the Olympics and we shouldn't outsource the manufacturing of Team USA's uniforms," a US lawmaker said this week after it emerged that the American Olympic team's uniforms for the London 2012 Games, designed by Ralph Lauren, were produced in China.

Rep Pete Stark was one of a group of 59 Members of Congress who sent a letter to the Olympic Committee urging them to buy American.

"We need to see more 'made in America' again, and our athletes' uniforms are a perfect place to start," Rep Mike Michaud added. "The outsourcing of these uniforms was a mistake that shouldn't be repeated."

To be fair, their anger is probably not surprising, and you have to wonder that no-one spotted the decision to make the outfits in China would be a controversial one.

Ralph Lauren Corp has been quick to reassure critics that uniforms worn by American athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games will be made in the US. And to hammer home the point, a bill called the 'Team USA Made in America Act' has been hurriedly introduced to make sure the opening day uniforms are all made in the US.

"Like our great Olympic athletes, US workers deserve their support as well," points out Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO). "If the USOC takes the time, they will find US textile workers standing ready and able to supply all textile products the Committee needs."

Of course no-one is naive enough to believe any such move will see the return of hundreds of thousands of assembly jobs to the US. But by the same token, US athletes are a source of national pride - and so too should be the work that goes into making the uniforms they wear.


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