The government of the United States of America is one of only three countries which does not fund its nation’s Olympics team, yet lawmakers have been outraged over the past 24 hours upon learning that the U.S. Olympic team’s uniforms were made in China. Until Congress starts to be patriotic enough to actually fund the U.S. Olympic Committee, they should shut up about where the U.S. Olympic Team’s uniforms (designed by iconic Ralph Lauren) are manufactured.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in his typical demure fashion, expressed this outrage:
“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.”
“You’d think they’d know better.”
That’s the same John (“Where are the jobs?“) Boehner who has spent $50 million holding 33 theatrical Obamacare repeal votes that serve only to give Republicans talking points and electioneering content.
That $50 million could pay for maybe one-third of the U.S. Olympic team’s budget — at least in 2010, according to this piece in Parade:
All told, the USOC [U.S. Olympic Committee] helps field teams in 45 sports with less money than the New York Yankees spend on salaries alone. Its annual budget of $150 million is already less than estimated budgets for European rivals with smaller populations. Comparisons across borders can be deceptive, since individual sports raise additional money separately—some U.S. programs, such as skiing and figure skating, are flush with cash. But in small sports for which the USOC is the primary sponsor, the difference is clear. Former canoe/kayak director David Yarborough estimates, for example, that the U.S. budget for his sport is one-tenth of Britain’s, France’s, Germany’s, or Hungary’s.
Most of the 205 Olympic nations provide government funding for their Olympic committees. The U.S. does not.
But Boehner was not the only lawmaker expressing, forgive me, but either faux or flagrantly misplaced outrage. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters:
“We take great pride in our Olympic athletes and try to watch them through as many of the trials as possible. I can’t wait to stay up all night to see as much as possible of them. We take such pride and they work so hard. They represent the very best and they’re so excellent, it’s all so beautiful. And they should be wearing uniforms made in America.”
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, pointing to an ABC News report on the uniforms’ country of origin, said in a statement, “This is unacceptable,” adding:
That’s why I’ve written a letter with Rep. Steve Israel to the US Olympic Committee to urge them to manufacture all future Team USA uniforms right here in America.
Senator Gillibrand — whose state of New York was once home to a robust garment manufacturing industry — in her letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee wrote:
“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. Just as our athletes will be proudly competing in London, American manufacturers compete for the honor to outfit them on the criteria of using solely American workers to make these uniforms. It has been reported by economists that if every one of us spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.- made goods every year, it would create nearly 10,000 new jobs in this country. We also know that manufacturing is on the rise in the U.S. As reported in June, U.S. manufacturers added nearly 500,000 jobs in the previous 26 months – the strongest growth for any 26 month period since 1995.”
The New Civil Rights Movement reached out to Senator Gillibrand, and in a telephone conversation with her Public Relations spokesman, was told that the Senator has worked diligently on Made In America legislation. Turns out, she really has — a simple Google search will support this. (Frankly, at the end of our five-minute discussion, I was forced to tell him he was making my outrage difficult to support.)
That said, the U.S. Olympic team — which is actually chartered, but not supported, by the federal government — relies on donations, corporate sponsorship, and income from the selling of TV and media rights to support our athletes and their huge training and organizing program – and it does so without one penny of your tax dollars.
Sure, it would be nice if the U.S. Olympic team were wearing uniforms made in the U.S.A.
But what has Congress actually done to bring back garment manufacturing jobs to the United States? Precious little — certainly nothing whatsoever to vote on President Obama’s American Jobs Act of 2011.
Erin Skarda at Time writes:
According to Erica Wolf, executive director of Save the Garment Center, an organization that seeks to preserve New York City as the capital of American fashion, just 5% of the clothing sold in the U.S. is actually manufactured here. In 1960, that number was 95%. That’s a significant statistic that should garner attention on its own, especially with all the debate about job creation and the flailing U.S. economy. Politicians are quick to get outraged about the importance of “Made in America” for the Olympic Games, but in reality, Save the Garment Center and other organizations have pushed congress to prioritize legislation that supports U.S. apparel manufacturers. So far, however, the issue hasn’t come to a vote. “The controversy over the Olympic uniforms has given [Made-in-America manufacturing] much more of an awareness to the national level,” Wolf told me in a phone interview. “But it’s not enough. We need more.”
Until Congress sees fit to support our national pride — and theirs – by funding the U.S. Olympic Committee, they have no right whatsoever to mount such tremendous pressure and, frankly, unsupportive attacks, just weeks prior to the Olympics, on our Olympic athletes and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Congress, time to put our money where your mouths are.
You can visit the U.S. Olympic Team on Facebook and Twitter, and at their home on the web. Feel free to make a donation if you can, and write your Congressman and Senators and tell them you want them to start funding America’s Olympians.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.