The outside of the mittens say “Go USA.” The insides say “Made in China.”
Less than two years after being criticized for having the U.S. Olympic team’s uniforms made in China, the U.S. Olympic Committee has another wardrobe malfunction on its hands.
The red-white-and-blue mittens it’s selling to raise funds for winter athletes were produced in China.
The USOC is charging $14 a pair for the blue hand-warmers that have the word “Go” embroidered in red on the left mitten and “USA” on the right. Also part of that left mitten is the tag, which says the gloves are “100% acrylic,” ‘’One Size Fits Most” and “Made in China.”
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said the “official” mittens being worn by the athletes at the opening ceremony are made in the USA. They’re also available to the public for $98 a pair on the Ralph Lauren website, which proudly proclaims its products are “Made in America” almost everywhere you look on the page for its official Team USA collection.
But the federation, which receives no government funding and is always trying to find new ways to raise money for its athletes, was going for a lower price point for its fundraiser. With the games more than a month away, it has raised $500,000 from the mitten sales.
“We wanted to create a fundraising opportunity where almost anyone could support Team USA,” Sandusky said.
The foreign-made mittens are available at the USOC’s official online shop of the U.S. Olympic Team.
The mittens are an American spin on an idea that started in Canada at the last Winter Games. The host country produced “Go Canada” mittens that turned out to be the hot item of the Olympics, raising more than $14 million for the Canadian team. Those mittens, which sold for $10 a pair, were made in China, too.
The USOC, meanwhile, has tried to be careful about where its goods are manufactured since running into trouble when news broke that its 2012 team uniforms were produced in China.
Congressmen from both parties piled onto the PR gaffe, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., saying, “I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”
Shortly after that, the USOC said all future team uniforms would be made in the United States and, true to its word, the 2014 versions are.
Fans can buy almost all components of the uniforms – among them, pullover sweaters, the same boots the athletes will wear at the opening ceremony and, of course, the $98 “Go for gold TEAM USA” mittens that also say “Go USA.” Some of the proceeds from those sales go to the U.S. team, per terms of licensing agreements with Ralph Lauren.
“We want to provide a variety of things for people to purchase,” Sandusky said. “A good number of those items are made in the USA and some items are made from around the globe, like most sporting goods. But we wanted to make an effort to make sure people have a chance to buy the official team mittens, which are made in the USA.”