The office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) announced the agreement Monday, one week after Senate Democrats unveiled legislation that would force USOC to adopt “Made in America” uniform standards or face the prospect of losing its charter to oversee the U.S. Olympic program.
From now on, U.S. athletes will don ceremonial uniforms manufactured in the United States, but designers and manufacturers will be permitted to use materials from foreign sources if they are not manufactured in the U.S., or if obtaining American-made materials would cause a delay or high costs. The new agreement begins with uniforms worn during the opening and closing ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, according to Menendez’s office.
Manufacturers may also use foreign materials if for some reason using U.S.-made products would violate International Olympic Committee or local organizing committee policies. The USOC will have to explain in writing if it must use foreign-made products in the ceremonial uniforms.
Scott Blackmun, CEO of the USOC said he was “pleased” to work with Menendez and Senate Democrats to address concerns about Team USA’s parade uniforms. “After listening to feedback from members of Congress, we have committed, along with our partners at Ralph Lauren, to make future parade uniforms in the United States,” Blackmun said in a statement released by Menendez’s office.
The new deal does not apply to athletic uniforms worn during sporting events, because Senate aides said that several athletes may opt to use specific uniforms and products not manufactured in the United States in order to compete effectively.”
“At a minimum, the Senators believe it makes sense for the U.S. Olympic Committee to seek to procure the team’s ceremonial uniforms – the uniforms our American athletes proudly wear when they walk behind the US flag during the opening ceremony – from American manufacturers,” said Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright.
Senators met last Wednesday with USOC officials in Washington to discuss changing the uniform policy, which faced widespread criticism after news reports revealed that uniforms to be worn this Friday during the Opening Ceremony in London were designed by Ralph Lauren, but manufactured in China.
The reports sparked angry reactions from lawmakers, most notably Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who said the USOC “should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”
Within hours, Menendez and several Democratic colleagues seized on the outrage — and the souring national mood toward China — and unveiled a bill that would force the USOC to adopt the stricter standards.
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