OLYMPIC OUTRAGE: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill lambasted the U.S. Olympic Committee on Thursday for dressing American Olympic athletes in clothing and uniforms manufactured in China and failing to support American apparel and textile manufacturers.
Ralph Lauren Corp. is one of the sponsors providing casual clothing for the athletes attending the Olympics in London and also dressing the Olympic and Paralympic teams for the closing ceremony, according to news reports. While Ralph Lauren is an iconic American designer known the world over, the clothes designed for the U.S. Olympic athletes were reportedly made in China, not the U.S.
This story first appeared in the July 13, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A Ralph Lauren spokesman declined to comment on the controversy brewing in Washington.
Following reports that American athletes will be kicking off the 2012 Olympics in uniforms made in China, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D., N.Y.) sent a joint letter to Lawrence F. Probst, chairman of the USOC, expressing outrage over the decision and calling on the committee to produce uniforms in the U.S. by American workers for Team USA for all future Olympics.
“When America’s best athletes are representing our country on the world stage, we should be representing the best of American-made goods,” Gillibrand said in the letter. “The pride of our Olympic athletes goes hand-in-hand with the pride in American innovation and manufacturing. We shouldn’t be going to the world stage with anything less. From head to toe, Team USA must be made in America.”
Israel, in urging the committee to reconsider its decision, said: “It is disgraceful that our American athletes will be wearing Chinese-made uniforms during the Olympics. We should be promoting American-made goods and supporting our domestic manufacturers and laborers.”
In press briefings around the Capitol on Thursday, Republican and Democratic leaders decried the committee’s decision. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), House Democratic leader, said the nation’s Olympic athletes should be “wearing uniforms that are made in America,” while House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said the committee should have known better. In one of the most scathing commentaries, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) called for the Olympic committee to burn all of the uniforms and start over again.
A spokesman for the USOC defended the committee’s decision Thursday, saying the U.S. Olympic Team is privately funded and is grateful for the support of its sponsors, including Ralph Lauren, according to news reports.