As the furor over the overseas-made Olympic uniforms continues to grow in and around Capitol Hill, ABC News reports that all of Team U.S.A.’s outfits, plus the associated memorabilia, would have brought $1 billion to the U.S. economy had they been made domestically instead of in China. Whether the sudden surge of patriotism is a result of political grandstanding during an election year or genuine concern over limping employment rates, the media firestorm-cum-public relations nightmare has driven Ralph Lauren executives to reconsider their position.
In a statement released late on Friday, the company announced that it will produce the American athletes’ uniforms in the United States starting with the 2014 Olympics.
“For more than 45 years, Ralph Lauren has built a brand that embodies the best of American quality and design rooted in the rich heritage of our country,” it said. “We are honored to continue our longstanding relationship with the United States Olympic Committee in the 2014 Olympic Games by serving as an official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams. Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government to address the issue to increase manufacturing in the United States. We have committed to producing the opening and closing ceremony Team U.S.A. uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.”
Ralph Lauren uniforms worn at previous Olympics didn’t provoke the same response over their overseas provenance.
American athletes have worn ceremonial outfits manufactured offshore since 1998, when the U.S. Olympic Committee first commissioned sportswear companies to “liven up the look” of its team, according to the New York Times. For 10 years, everything they wore at the opening and closing ceremonies was designed and produced in Canada by a company called Roots. Ralph Lauren took over when it won those rights in 2008.
Because the Ralph Lauren uniforms worn at previous Olympics—in Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010—prompted little outcry over their overseas provenance, the recent flap took company officials completely by surprise. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Ralph Lauren for outsourcing the production of its uniforms to China. “I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again,” Reid told ABC News.
Xinhua News, the official Chinese news agency, condemned Reid for his “narrow nationalism and ignorance” on Monday. “China and the United States are important trade partners, whose bilateral trade volume exceeded 440 billion U.S. dollars last year,” the media outlet wrote. “China has provided the U.S. consumers with high quality commodities and necessities which are important to the U.S. citizen’s daily life including the politicians.”
“If the accusation on the London Olympic outfits is justified, why shouldn’t the U.S. Congress impose a ban on its members, who politically represent the country, from wearing anything or using any product that is made abroad?,” it continued. “So, if there is anything that should be burned, it should really be the hypocrisy of the U.S. politics.”