Shame on Ralph Lauren, US Open


Two years ago, faced with criticism of outsourcing of Olympic uniforms and souvenirs, Ralph Lauren promised to bring manufacturing back to the United States. While Mr. Lauren did bring token manufacturing back before the 2014 Winter Olympics, his company manufactures all US Open clothing offshore in third-world sweatshops. Ralph Lauren’s polo shirts retail for $125, definitely high enough to leave a substantial profit if they were made in the USA.

In July 2012, Polo Ralph Lauren released a statement, “Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government addressing the issue of increasing manufacturing in the United States. We have committed to producing the Opening and Closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.”

Ralph Lauren has failed to lead the apparel industry to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. There are many fine American manufactures who are ready, willing and able to make US Open clothing in the US including American Apparel and the All American Clothing Company. You can make a high-quality T-shirt in the US for $4 or less. The US Open sells its official T-shirt for $30 and it is made in India. There is plenty of room for profit for the USTA if it sells American-made T-shirts and clothing. The US Open should be the showcase for American products. It is the premier tennis event in the US, and one of the four major tennis tournaments held worldwide. On the website fails to disclose that all of the US Open garments for sale are imported. The federal Textile Act provides that promotional material or mail order catalogs, including Internet websites and magazine ads, are falsely or deceptively advertised unless they state if each product is made in the U.S. or imported.

The US Tennis Association, of which I am a card-carrying member, should require that its licensed products be made in the United States. The USTA owns the US Open. USTA should start with tennis balls. For many years Wilson’s US Open tennis balls were made in the US. Now they are made in China. If USTA required American-made tennis balls, Wilson, or a competitor, would restart production the in the US.

Major sponsors of the US Open include Emirates Airline (owned by the Emirate of Dubai), Heineken beer (Dutch), Evian water (French) and Mercedes Benz (Germany). I don’t think the US Open would have much difficulty finding American replacements for these imports. The USTA has the US Open T-shirt made overseas. In violation of federal law, USTA’s website does not disclose where the shirt is made, but says it is made by “American Needle,” which sounds American, but it is not. American Needle has the US Open shirts made in India, and it fails to comply with federal law on country of origin labeling. I have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Ralph Lauren, the USTA and American Needle for failing to disclose the country of origin of its US Open apparel products on the Internet as required by the Textile Act. The ball is now in the FTC’s court.

Joel Joseph is chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation. Email Phone 310 MADE-USA.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2014

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