Who would have thought that a few shorts, shirts, bikinis and head gear could have gotten the attention of the US Congress. I can tell you, the members of congress are not your everyday fashionistas or fashion police, but they have served up some serious fashion subpoenas recently. Yes heads are turning as the fifty-nine members of Congress, in an angry letter Tuesday, urged the U.S. Olympic Committee to guarantee American athletes wear American-made uniforms at future Olympic games.
Their broadside follows last week’s revelation that Team USA’s uniforms for the London games, styled by iconic American designer Ralph Lauren, are made in China, the principal source of garments imported into the United States. “We are outraged,” began the bipartisan letter addressed to Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun, and initiated by Democratic congressmen Pete Stark of California and Mike Michaud of Maine.
“At a time when so many Americans are still searching for work, it is offensive that the USOC would not support our workers and their families by manufacturing the uniforms here,” it said. “Team USA should wear uniforms that evoke more than just an image, but actual labor from workers and raw materials from America.
“The United States Olympics Committee (USOC) should immediately adopt a policy to ensure that future uniforms are manufactured in America.” In a press release accompanying the letter, Stark said: “We don’t outsource the athletes who represent the United States in the Olympics and we shouldn’t outsource the manufacturing of Team USA’s uniforms.”
Supporting the letter were the AFL-CIO labor federation and the National Council of Textile Organizations, an industry group. Clearly stung by the furor, and with Senate majority leader Harry Reid proposing the London uniforms be put in a pile and burned, the USOC said on Friday it was too late to supply US-made uniforms in time for London.
But it said Ralph Lauren had agreed to “domestically manufacture Team USA’s apparel” for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Separately, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia vowed Tuesday to press ahead with legislation he has co-sponsored to require all “ceremonial uniforms” for US Olympic athletes to be produced on U.S. soil.
“At a time when so many Americans are struggling, it is even more important for Team USA to put forward American-made uniforms — not only to support our manufacturers, but to take pride in our country,” he said in a statement. Rockefeller chairs the Senate commerce, transportation and science committee, which is considering changes to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to make American-made Olympic uniforms mandatory under the law.