By Joel D. Joseph, Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation
Reflecting on the recent Olympics, and Olympic scandals, the entire board of directors of the U.S. Olympic Committee should be fired for three reasons: 1. The Committee failed over a twenty-year period to discover that more than 200 young girls were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the doctor for the U.S. Olympic Gymnastic Team; 2. The U.S. Olympic team failed to beat Norway in the Winter Olympics (Norway has fewer people than Minnesota); and 3. The Committee failed to make Olympic uniforms and souvenirs in the United States.
Six years ago I appeared on Fox News challenging the Olympic Committee to manufacture its uniforms in the United States. I had several U.S. apparel companies ready to donate uniforms made in America. In response to this bad press, Ralph Lauren promised to make Olympic uniforms in the United States for the 2018 Winter Games. Mr. Lauren and his company, Polo, lived up to his promise. All Ralph Lauren apparel for the 2018 Winter Games was made in the USA, including ski hats, gloves, jackets, sweaters, pants and shirts. They are also available to the public on its website, www.ralphlauren.com/TeamUSA. Mr. Lauren has proven that you can make nearly everything in the United States, including beautiful sweaters and a heated ski jacket.
Unexplainably, the U.S. Olympic Committee also authorized Nike to make Olympic outfits. For reasons yet to be disclosed, the Committee did not require Nike to make these products in the United States. All of the Nike products displaying the U.S. Olympic logo are imported from China, Vietnam and other countries.
I first brought up the issue of Made in the USA Olympic products before Mitt Romney, then the head of the Olympic committee and the rest of the U.S. Olympic board during hearings on the games in Park City, Utah in 2001. Back then Republicans were just not interested in "Made in the USA," and Romney only wanted the least expensive apparel available. Now the Republicans are allegedly born-again "Buy American" supporters.
Congress and the White House are also to blame. This issue should have been on the President's agenda a year ago, but President Trump has not said a word about imported Olympic gear. This could be because he really is not fully committed to making products in the United States--just look at his Trump brand suits, shirts and ties (Made in Mexico, China and Indonesia).
Back in 2012, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said: "It's 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. It is self-defeating."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) agreed: "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."
Senator Robert Menendez introduced a bill, the "Team USA Made in America Act of 2012." This proposal would have required the U.S. Olympic Committee to purchase only uniforms that meet the standards of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for labeling as "Made in USA." That bill, S. 3387, went nowhere.
The U.S. Olympic Committee was created by an act of Congress and can be changed by an act of Congress. If this administration seriously wants to create jobs in the United States, it can start by firing the current Olympic board and passing a law requiring that Olympic uniforms and souvenirs to be made in the U.S.A.