You see your favorite Big Ten teams' uniforms and practice gear, but you probably don't often give much thought to where they originated.
But that's become a big issues for several Big Ten teams and their apparel provider, adidas. ESPN.com's Kristi Dosh reports that multiple schools across the country are cutting ties or questioning their deals with adidas because of concern over workers' rights in Indonesia. Those schools include Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin, along with future Big Ten school Rutgers. Nebraska and Indiana are also outfitted by adidas.
"The issue revolves around the closure of PT Kizone, a factory in Indonesia with which adidas, along with Nike and the Dallas Cowboys, had contracts for the manufacture of goods. According to a report produced by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), violations at PT Kizone began in September 2010 when it failed to make mandatory terminal compensation payments to employees who left the factory. In December 2010, the factory failed to make regularly scheduled payments to current employees. The owner of the factory then fled Indonesia in January 2011. Thereafter, the buying agent, Green Textile, ran the factory and paid workers through March 2011. In April 2011, PT Kizone was declared bankrupt and closed.
"The WRC, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and other worker rights advocacy groups claimed adidas was refusing to pay $1.8 million in legally mandated severance owed to the 2,800 workers of PT Kizone. Total severance and other pay due under Indonesian law to the workers, who had no advance notice of the factory’s closure, totaled $3.3 million. Both Nike and the Dallas Cowboys contributed partial severance, but for nearly two years, adidas has maintained it does not owe any of the monies."
The story says Wisconsin has sued adidas and that Penn State has suspended its contract with the apparel giant. Rutgers has already terminated its deal with adidas.
But the big one here is Michigan, which according to the story, has the largest college sports contract with adidas, worth more than $60 million. Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman has been requesting frequent updates from adidas on the Indonesia situation. It would be huge news if the Wolverines, one of the most iconic brands in college sports, suddenly became a free agent for apparel rights. (Of course, some would argue that adidas deserved to be fired for this monstrosity, or this, or this.
Anyway, it's an interesting story, and one that might get you thinking a little more about where your favorite teams' uniforms originate.