Joshua Crockett ’10
Today is the day! After multiple off-season workouts, nerve wrecking tryouts, and grueling first week of practice; it is finally time to get your uniform. Your eyes get big and your heart subtly skips a beat as you ponder what number will grace your person for the upcoming season. For returning players, a defensive posture is taken in order to protect what is rightfully theirs. Newcomers look on with optimistic hopes that decent options will be left for you to choose. Whichever person you are, the sense of excitement is heightened every three to four years when used uniforms are replaced with brand new apparel. But have you ever stopped and thought of where those new jerseys or your new shoes came from? Furthermore, have you thought of how much a worker was paid to make the t-shirts you practice in?
On Wednesday, April 22, 2009, Wooten High School senior Ethan Miller spoke at McNamara about the importance of worker’s rights awareness. With representatives from McNamara, Gonzaga and John Carroll high school in attendance, Miller broke down the true reality of overseas sweatshop workers. At the heart of his presentation was the present battle of many organizations like USAS (united students against sweatshops) who are against Russell athletics for their sweatshop practices in Honduras.
Many schools have terminated their contracts with Russell Athletics due to student lead pressure. In tough economic climates, the loss of contracts from nationally respected institutions like Georgetown, Michigan, Harvard, Yale, UCLA, and Marquette, have made proposals for the improvement of worker’s rights over in Honduras vital. In an attempt to somewhat save face, they have invited representatives from some of these schools in order to show how they have already began making work for Russell athletics a more humane working environment.
Even though Nike presents a sense of quality and style, there is a dark and unjust side of the company that some consumers don’t know or even care to know. Consumers see their favorite million dollar athletes on television commercials and magazine covers with Nike apparel and wish to have the same athletic wardrobe. What they don’t know is Nike pays factory workers poverty wages for long and grueling hours. The exploitation of these workers seems quite selfish due to the vast amount of revenue gained from the finished product.
To be completely fair to these major companies, the employment offered overseas does provide occupation for many citizens in their respective countries. The problem is that they have cut the worker salary to an unlivable wage in order to attain maximum profit.
According to HOLA, a cut of less than 1% of Nike’s advertising budget could double wages for all workers making Nike apparel.
Honestly, as one of the world most famous apparel company they could easily afford to give up 1% of advertising to support those that make them billions of dollars a year.
Over the years, styles and even the company preferred among high school students constantly changes. McNamara teams of the past did not typically feature well known designers like the teams of today. In fact, McNamara Alumni and current Athletic Director, Mr. Anthony Johnson says, “There really wasn’t an outward showing of a brand. Most of the uniforms were generic brand. The most common brand names were Champion and Rawlings.” For the most part, these brands have been out-shined by more innovative and revolutionary athletic apparel with companies like New Balance, Adidas, Reebok, Converse, Nike, and Russell.
Mr. Johnson says, “As a fan, I like Nike’s style of clothing and gear. The quality of equipment speaks to the quality of the program.” Many athletes from around the school shared Mr. Johnson’s opinion and would prefer Nike apparel. However, the school is not officially sponsored by the apparel powerhouse known by its trademark “swoosh”. Teams like men’s and women’s lacrosse team wear uniforms made by Russell.
I am not saying in any way that supporting these athletic companies is immoral. However, as long as we continue to wear these overpriced products shouldn’t we make conscience efforts to think beyond the ‘label’? If the label doesn’t change their stance, are we strong enough as a generation to discontinue supporting their product?
Would the school consider discontinuing wearing such apparel produced by these companies?
Principal Marco Clark says, “It is definitely possible. We all have responsibility to respect ethical practices. We will always attempt to make sound and just decisions.”
In honor of the stampede’s Going Green initiative, take some time to educate yourself on the subject more in depth. If you find it interesting, try to become actively involved in the fight for global worker’s rights. Who knows, when you are in line to purchase those new cleats you shouldn’t JUST DO IT!