Badger Sportswear made the right decision, but something is off.
North Carolina-based Badger Sportswear, whose athletic apparel can be found on college athletes and sports fans nationwide, no longer sources its goods from a clothing manufacturer that uses forced labor in Chinese internment camps that hold members of religious and ethnic minority groups.
We’re relieved to hear that Badger is finally ending its contract with the manufacturer, Hetian Taida Apparel, and hope that it will commit to ethical manufacturing by moving its production to the U.S. There are plenty of Made in USA companies ready to meet their needs. By moving its sourcing to the U.S., Badger would create jobs in communities that have long suffered from the outsourcing of America’s textile industry.
Despite Badger doing the right thing by no longer benefitting from Hetian Taida’s appalling labor practices, the company's decision seems a tad bit forced: It insists that Hetian Taida did not participate in forced labor.
UPDATE: WRAP Investigation Concludes No Use of Forced Labor At Western China Facility pic.twitter.com/rXlXyH75Uk— Badger Sport (@badger_sport) December 23, 2018
An interesting assertion considering the Associated Press (AP) first began investigating the company’s sourcing when a Badger employee was filmed in what was tantamount to an internment camp of China’s Uighur and Kazakh communities.
In an NPR interview about the process of uncovering these practices, the AP’s Dake Kang said:
“So the initial clue was that there's actually state media reports which show a Badger employee actually accepting a television interview inside basically an internment camp. So that was an initial hint. […] They don't look like normal factories. They look like prisons. There is double barbed wire fencing, and there's posters lining it. They say things like learn to be grateful. Learn to be an upright person. There are surveillance cameras everywhere. As I was filming out of the car as we were passing by this facility, they spotted my camera. And they were yelling at us for us to stop, so we had to stop, and then we were detained."
“Quality for All.” That’s Badger’s slogan, but that quality shouldn’t come at the cost of immoral and illegal labor practices. Badger made the right choice when it decided to no longer source from Hetian Taida, but insisting that the manufacturer didn’t do anything wrong even after the AP exposed the conditions on the ground makes its “ethical” decision seem not as genuine as you’d hope.
Read what AAM had to say when this story first broke in December.