By Donna Cassata
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. uniforms for the Olympics are made in China, causing members of Congress to fume.
Congress railed on Thursday about the U.S. Olympic Committee’s decision to dress its team in Chinese-manufactured berets, blazers, and pants, while the American textile industry struggles economically with many U.S. 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,” Senator Harry Reid said.
Nancy Pelosi said at her weekly news conference that she’s proud of the nation’s Olympic athletes, but “they should be wearing uniforms that are made in America.”
House Speaker John Boehner said simply of the USOC, “You’d think they’d know better.”
In a statement, the USOC defended the choice of American designer Ralph Lauren for the clothing.
“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,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement.
“We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company.”
Ralph Lauren also is 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 United States 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. Yet that did little to quell the anger on Capitol Hill.
“It is not just a label, it’s an economic solution,” said congressman Steve Israel. “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’s just plain dumb. It is self-defeating.”
Senators Sherrod Brown and Kirsten Gillibrand sent letters to Lawrence Probst III, chairman of the USOC, complaining about the made-in-China uniforms. Brown suggested the USOC find a manufacturer with a facility in the United States, suggesting the Hugo Boss plant in Cleveland.
“There is no compelling reason why all of the uniforms cannot be made here on U.S. soil at the same price, at better quality,” Gillibrand and Israel wrote.
This is not the first time patriotism has been discussed when it comes to Olympic clothing. The must-have U.S. souvenir of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games was a fleece beret made by Roots, a Canadian company that was the official U.S. team outfitter for that opening ceremony. (end)
Associated Press writers Tim Reynolds in Miami and Alan Fram and Jim Abrams in Washington contributed to this report.