WASHINGTON -- Uniforms for U.S. Olympic athletes are American red, white and blue, but made in China. Members of Congress are fuming.
Republicans and Democrats railed yesterday about the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision to dress the team in Chinese-manufactured berets, blazers and pants while the U.S. textile industry struggles and many workers are desperate for jobs.
"I am so upset. I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves. . . . I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference on taxes.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters 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."
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In a statement, the committee defended the choice of designer Ralph Lauren for the clothing at the London Games.
"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," spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. "We're proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company."
On Twitter, Sandusky called the outrage over the made-in-China uniforms nonsense. The designer, he wrote, "financially supports our team. An American company that supports American athletes."
Said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills): "It is not just a label, it's an economic solution. 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."
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) separately sent letters to USOC chairman Lawrence Probst III. Brown suggested that 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 wrote along with Israel.
This is not the first time patriotism has been discussed when it comes to Olympic clothing. The must-have souvenir of the 2002 Salt Lake Games was a fleece beret made by Roots, a Canadian company that was the official U.S. team outfitter for that opening ceremony.