by Joshua Rhett Miller, FOXNews.com
The lone major sport with its roots in America could soon see its premier players dunking and driving to the hoop wearing uniforms made in Thailand, costing nearly 100 workers their jobs in upstate New York.
Sports apparel giant Adidas plans to end its contract with Perry, N.Y.-based apparel supplier American Classic Outfitters (ACO), which currently manufactures more than half of the uniforms worn in the National Basketball Association.
And that’s downright un-American, says Donna Wampole, who has worked at ACO, outside Buffalo, for 22 years. She says losing Adidas’ business will undoubtedly hurt the company and will likely lead to layoffs.
“I think it’s horrible,” Wampole told FoxNews.com of the impending move. “They’re American teams, they should all be wearing American garments.”
Wampole, a production supervisor, said the company has been allotting shorter hours to employees in an effort to avoid job losses.
“They’re worried, there’s a lot of chatter,” Wampole said. “We’ve been trying to shift work around and reduce people’s hours to try and keep everybody employed. We’re struggling.”
New York Sen. Charles Schumer on Tuesday blasted Adidas’ move as “short-sighted” and called on the compnay to reverse its decision.
“It is flat wrong for Adidas to move the production of jerseys worn by NBA players outside the United States when there are U.S. companies that have done this work so well and for so long,” Schumer said in a statement to FoxNews.com.
“And to do it in this economic climate adds insult to injury. Basketball is a marquee American sport and the NBA is its premier stage.”
Rob Knoll, ACO’s senior vice president, told FoxNews.com that, barring new customers, 97 employees at the 200,000-square-foot New York plant could lose their jobs once Adidas moves its operations overseas, a decision Knoll said ACO officials learned just six weeks ago.
“We’re working diligently with our sales people,” Knoll said. “We do not want to close it. Our stance is will we not let this fail.”
Knoll said some employees at the plant have nearly 40 years tenure. Nearly all have been “scared to death” since Adidas’ plans have become public, he said.
“We’re not going to allow this facility to fail,” said Knoll, adding “it doesn’t look good.”
Schumer said ACO obtained a long-term contract with Adidas last year to become its exclusive provider of sports apparel. ACO then invested more than $1 million in facility improvements and equipment to produce NBA jerseys.
“The jerseys the NBA players wear should be made in the U.S.A, plain and simple,” Schumer’s statement continued. “From outfitting the original Dream Team to LeBron James to the WNBA, the workers right here in New York have produced a first-class product that has been a vital part of the sport’s growing popularity.”
Calls to the NBA seeking comment were not returned Tuesday. In a statement obtained by FoxNews.com, Adidas said it informed NCO of its decision in August.
“This decision is in line with both the company’s product strategy of developing and introducing new, innovative materials and technologies to basketball uniforms, and the company’s sourcing strategy of consolidating our supply chain,” the statement read. “This decision is in no way a reflection on the capabilities or performance of ACO who has been a great partner for many years. The Adidas Group continues to produce uniforms for professional, college and other amateur teams at more than 30 facilities in North America and will continue to do so moving forward.”
Schumer said that moving manufacturing overseas would deprive ACO of $7 million annually.
“To cut them off from the future growth of the sport is flat wrong,” Schumer said in his statement. “Adidas must do the right thing and reverse this decision, and continue to produce all these jerseys domestically at ACO. To do anything else is an insult to the American worker and sports fans everywhere in America.”