NEW YORK - Ralph Lauren's stylish uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team, complete with a jaunty beret, have sparked a political row because the red, white and blue outfits were made in China.
With U.S. unemployment hovering at 8 percent, politicians are speaking out against the uniforms for the London Games that start later this month, saying they should have been made at home.
"It is not just a label, it's an economic solution," Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement issued on Th ursday.
"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."
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, echoed that criticism.
"You'd think they'd know better," Boehner told reporters.
Despite the criticism, the U.S. Olympic Committee defended its decision to have Lauren design the outfits.
"Unlike most Olympic teams around the world, the U.S. Olympic Team is privately funded and we're grateful for the support of our sponsors," spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement.
"We're proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company, and excited to watch America's finest athletes compete at the upcoming Games in London."
No one was immediately available at Ralph Lauren to comment. (Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Christine Kearney, Phil Berlowitz and Dan Grebler)