Does Capitol Hill want to design the U.S Olympic team’s uniforms? Has Rule 40 become a joke?

The following Article has been written by a guest blogger, Stephanie Ramirez, a second year Touro Law School Student.

From Capitol Hill reprimands to rogue athletes the U.S Olympic committee just can’t seem to catch a break.However, the folks up at Capitol Hill are not trading in their veto power for story boards and sewing dummies. Instead, the controversy in D.C is centered on where the 2014 USA Olympics uniforms will be manufactured. Retaining its ordinary duties, Congress has passed the “Team USA Made in America Act of 2012.” This act requires the United States Olympic Committee to ensure that Team U.S.A’s ceremonial uniforms are assembled in America, by American labor, using American fabrics.

However, does the current debate only extend to sporting event uniforms?
While Congress’ intentions appear noble, it is strange that their stance on outsourcing only extends to sporting event uniforms. It is difficult to understand the motivation behind Congress. Outsourcing has been a practice in our country for years.

Who owns an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy mobile device? Take a look at your underwear, purses and cars.

America has determined that the two most important economic activities remain in the U.S – branding and marketing. I am certain if we were to take a field trip to the senator’s offices and homes we would find in most of their closets Italian loafers and in their driveways German or Japanese manufactured vehicles. The reality is that we outsource. From customer service to custom labels. So this reaction to the origin of Ralph Lauren’s United States Uniforms seems more like a political move, rather than a sincere stance. It is an undisputed fact that this country is experiencing one of its worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. As of today, there are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country.

Consequently, there has been an emergence of consumer activist groups in the U.S. specifically promoting the purchase of domestically made products.

Politics aside, as a result of the newly passed “Team America” Act, the current holder of Team U.S.A’s closing ceremony design contract, Ralph Lauren, will have to use American labor for the 2014 Winter Games. While the designer has refused to comment on the current debate, he has indulged in some self-promotion. Ralph Lauren has claimed that the Olympics Uniforms are “very classy, very elegant and a return to tradition”. David Lauren, Ralph Lauren’s Executive Vice President, stated that the company was “very inspired by the 1948 Games”, which is the last time that American competed in England.

Of course, the good news keeps rolling in for the Olympic Committee. Now they also have ongoing drama surrounding the leaked Louis Vuitton ad, staring the beloved Michael Phelps.

According to Rule 40, athletes are prohibited from appearing in unapproved ads during and for some time after the games. The purpose of this rule is to protect the interest of corporate sponsors. Due to this leakage, questions have surfaced as to whether a leaked, rather, than a released advertisement constitutes as a violation.

I would say in this case, that so long as Phelps did not permit the usage of the photos, what ultimately occurred is out of his hands. Advertisements change hands a few times before they reach the consumer. It is unfair to blame the model/athlete for what he cannot control. But that also leaves us with the key question. Who did leak the photos?