By Ariel Azoff of The SNSPost & Heartsleevesblog.com
Linsanity is sweeping the nation! Or at least the State of New York. Which, incidentally, is where adidas manufactured NBA jerseys (including those of the NY Knicks) up until 2009. Now they are made in Thailand.
NY Senator Chuck Schumer was among many who vehemently condemned the move.
“Because it’s an American sport invented in America, played better in America than anywhere else, the jerseys ought to be made here in America,” Schumer said.
Despite protests, adidas went ahead with the planned outsourcing, saying that it was in line with the company’s mission to move production closer to the source of the materials.
But does “Made in Thailand” inherently mean “bad?” No. The move did hurt jobs at the Perry, NY factory that lost the NBA contract. According to the American Classic Outfitter company’s website, they now manufacture custom-made uniforms for high school teams. Manufacturing in Thailand also means higher carbon emissions from shipping products back to the US for sale. The materials used to be shipped from Asia anyway, though. I’m not sure which is higher-impact.
Adidas has demonstrated a clear commitment to sustainability, launching several environmental initiatives in recent years. In 2010, it announced that the new NBA uniforms would be made from 60% recycled material. Called the Revolution 30, the eco-friendly uniforms are also 30% lighter and dry twice as fast. Neat.
But the fact remains that garment workers in Thailand are paid about $5/day. According to the Purchasing Power Parity calculations done by the Asian Floor Wage Alliance, a living wage is closer to $13/day. When you consider that Thai workers earn some of the highest wages in the region, the outlook from Asia isn’t so rosy.
Both adidas and the NBA have labor standards in place to protect garment workers. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult both to determine if those standards being upheld and to enforce them if they are not. According to the sportswear watchdog Clearing the Hurdles and it’s 2012 Play Fair at the Olympics campaign, adidas will not commit to incorporating a living wage in its Code of Conduct. The company ranks very high on a list of other benchmarks having to do with workers’ rights and transparency, but the fact remains that the system is heavily flawed.
I don’t advocate boycotting adidas or not buying NBA jerseys. That doesn’t help Thai workers either, and adidas is making strides, especially where the environment is concerned. So, when you rush to the store for your new Jeremy Lin jersey, just be aware of where it came from. Maybe you can even nab one of the 200 that were specially made on-site at MSG!
Born and raised in Woodstock, Ariel Azoff is an adventurer and aspiring writer who spent the past year working for a human rights organization in the Middle East. She is a contributing writer to The SNSPost & Midthoughtblog.com, and now that she is back in the U.S. is delving into the world of sustainable fashion and blogging as she goes at Heartsleevesblog.com.