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House Enters Olympic Apparel Fray

A bipartisan group of 59 House members sent a letter to the Olympic Committee, imploring it to ensure that uniforms are made in the U.S. in the future.

WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill lawmakers kept up the pressure on the U.S. Olympic Committee Tuesday as a bipartisan group of 59 House members sent a letter to the USOC, imploring it to ensure that Team USA’s uniforms are made in the U.S. in the future.

This story first appeared in the July 18, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The group of lawmakers, led by Reps. Pete Stark (D., Calif.) and Mike Michaud (D., Maine), said in the letter to Scott Blackmun, chief executive officer of the USOC, they were “outraged” by the USOC’s outfitting of U.S. Olympic athletes in Chinese-made uniforms and called on the USOC to immediately adopt a policy to manufacture future uniforms in America. The letter was supported by the National Council of Textile Organizations and the AFL-CIO.

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It comes in the wake of the controversy that Ralph Lauren, a USOC sponsor, was dressing U.S. athletes attending the London 2012 Summer Olympics in uniforms and apparel made in China.

As the controversy heated up late last week, Ralph Lauren pledged Friday to make the uniforms for the 2014 Games in the U.S.

On Monday, nine senators introduced legislation that would require the USOC to outfit the U.S. team in clothing made in America for all future Olympic games. The USOC would be required to provide a detailed justification for allowing uniforms and clothing sourced overseas if it cannot meet the procurement requirement.

“Team USA should wear uniforms that evoke more than just an image, but actual labor from workers and raw materials from America,” the bipartisan group of House lawmakers said in the letter. “The Ralph Lauren Corp. claims that the uniforms ‘embody’ the spirit of our country. This is not enough. American manufacturing is critical to the soul of the country. The U.S. textile and apparel industry provides the backbone to many cities and towns. These American companies are capable of making these uniforms at competitive prices.”

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The House letter marks a more coordinated effort in both parties in pressuring the USOC. It is the first time Republicans have joined Democratic colleagues in condemning the USOC’s decision and could indicate there is growing momentum for legislation to advance.

However, lawmakers have to date not introduced legislation in the House, according to a spokesman for Michaud.

“The congressman is currently looking into the legislative route with some of his colleagues here in the House,” said the spokesman.