Uniforms for US Olympic athletes are red, white and blue — but made in China. That has members of the US Congress fuming.
Republicans and Democrats railed on Thursday against the US Olympic Committee’s (USOC) decision to dress the US team in Chinese- manufactured berets, blazers and pants while the US textile industry struggles economically with many US workers desperate for jobs.
“I am so upset. I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again,” US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference on taxes.
“If they have to wear nothing but a singlet that says USA on it, painted by hand, then that’s what they should wear,” he said, referring to an athletic jersey.
US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference that she is proud of the nation’s Olympic athletes, but “they should be wearing uniforms that are made in America.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner said simply of the USOC: “You would think they’d know better.”
In a statement, the US Olympic Committee defended the choice of designer Ralph Lauren for the clothing at the London Games, which begin later this month.
“Unlike most Olympic teams around the world, the US Olympic Team is privately funded and we are grateful for the support of our sponsors,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement. “We are 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.”
Ralph Lauren is also dressing the Olympic and Paralympic teams for the closing ceremony and providing casual clothes to be worn around the Olympic Village. Nike has made many of the competition uniforms for the US and outfits for the medal stand.
On Twitter, Sandusky called the outrage over the made-in-China uniforms nonsense.
The designer, Sandusky wrote, “financially supports our team. An American company that supports American athletes.”
Ralph Lauren’s company declined to comment on the criticism.
This is not the first time that Ralph Lauren has designed the Olympic uniforms, but that has done little to quell the anger on Capitol Hill.
“It is not just a label, it’s an economic solution,” Democratic Representative Steve Israel said. “Today there are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country and the Olympic committee is outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms to China? That is not just outrageous, it is just plain dumb. It is self-defeating.”
Israel urged the USOC to reverse the decision and ensure US athletes wear uniforms made in the US.
Democratic senators Sherrod Brown and Kirsten Gillibrand separately sent letters to USOC chairman Lawrence Probst III, complaining about the made-in-China uniforms. Brown suggested that the USOC find a manufacturer with a facility in the US, suggesting a Hugo Boss plant in Cleveland.
“There is no compelling reason why all of the uniforms cannot be made here on US soil at the same price, at better quality,” Gillibrand wrote, along with Israel.
Senator Bernie Sanders said that while millions of Americans are unemployed, “there is no reason why US Olympic uniforms are not being manufactured in the US. This action on the part of the US Olympic Committee is symbolic of a disastrous trade policy which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and must be changed.”