Nike has unveiled the official outfits for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, but people are asking if they’re made in America.
On Tuesday, Nike introduced the Metal Stand Collection, to be worn by medalists in freezing February temperatures in PyeongChang: a Team USA Hypershield Summit Jacket (a removable bomber zip-up), waterproof pants with a cinched waist and ankle zippers, lace-free boots, and “touchscreen-compatible” gloves. The clothing will be available in stores Jan. 15.
“Was this Nike gear made in USA?” asked one Twitter user.
It’s a question with a loaded history. Nike’s headquarters is in Beaverton, Ore., but the company has faced criticism since the 1970s for child labor practices in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indonesian sweatshops. In the 1990s, Nike was blasted in the media — including a protest at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics — for providing deplorable working conditions, underpaying its employees, and taking jobs from American workers.
According to a timeline by Business Insider, Nike responded by creating a factory code of conduct and the nonprofit Fair Labor Association, and publicizing the factories with which it does business.
Phil Knight, the company’s co-founder, pledged to improve Nike’s production, but even in 2017 protests against Nike’s contracted factories raged on. United Students Against Sweatshops organized demonstrations last August following reports of a manufacturing plant in Vietnam where workers were verbally abused and were kept in 90°-plus environments, according to Quartz.
Although many companies produce merchandise overseas, there are strong feelings about outsourcing Olympic uniforms. One example is Ralph Lauren, which came under fire in 2012 when it was revealed its Opening Ceremony uniforms for the London Games were made in China.
“I am so upset,” Sen. Harry Reid told reporters that year, according to The Hill. “I think the [U.S.] 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.”
Reid added, “[If] all that they have to wear is nothing but a singlet with USA on it painted by hand, that’s what they should wear. We have people in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs.”
According to ESPN, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said at the time, “They should be wearing uniforms that are made in America.” Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters, “You’d think they’d know better.”
And Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “There is no reason why U.S. Olympic uniforms are not being manufactured in the U.S. This action on the part of the U.S. Olympic Committee is symbolic of a disastrous trade policy which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and must be changed.”
The outcry prompted Ralph Lauren to release a statement vowing to do better: “Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government addressing the issue of increasing manufacturing in the United States and has committed to producing the Opening and Closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.”
Six Democratic senators even passed the “Team USA Made in America Act of 2012” requiring the U.S. Olympic Committee to make its uniforms domestically and “make publicly available a detailed justification of the reasons the Committee obtained uniforms that do not meet that requirement.”
“At a time when too many Americans are looking for work and our manufacturers are closing factories, we need to do everything we can to keep jobs in America and not give the work of producing our iconic American uniforms for our Olympians to China,” New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said in a 2012 statement, according to Reuters.
Yahoo Lifestyle could not reach a representative from Nike or the U.S. Olympic Committee for comment regarding the 2018 uniforms.
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