U.S. colleges pulling sportswear traced to Chinese detention camps

By Kate Gibson

/ MoneyWatch

Forced labor in China produced U.S. imports

Badger Sportswear merchandise is getting pulled from the shelves of college bookstores across the country after a report linking the North Carolina company's products to forced labor at detention camps in China.

The Statesville, North Carolina, company said it would source its athletic wear elsewhere while looking into an Associated Press report that some of its products were sewn by Muslims held at internment camps in China's Xinjiang region. Imports involving forced labor are not legal in the U.S.

A spokesperson for CCMP Capital Advisor, a private-equity firm that acquired Badger in 2016, declined comment in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

Less than 1 percent of its jerseys and other athletic sportswear comes from the Hetian Taida Apparel Co. factory allegedly housed inside an internment camp in Xinjiang, Badger Sportswear stated in an online post.

"We immediately suspended ordering product from Hetian Taida and its affiliates while an investigation is conducted. We will not ship to customers any product in our possession from that facility," it added.

Collective punishment for China's Uighurs?

But Badger saying it would suspend further shipments pending an investigation isn't assuaging all of its customers, which include youth sports leagues and colleges around the country.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, is among the institutions pulling the plug on Badger merchandise sales.

Bowdoin suspended sales of the Badger-supplied T-shirts, shorts and sweatshirts that account for about 1 percent of its store sales, a spokesperson told the Bangor Daily News. The boxes shipped to the campus only show the country of origin, not the factory, preventing the the college from tracing them to an exact location, he added.

The University of Maine in Orono has also removed Badger Sportswear hoodies, pants, jackets and T-shirts from its bookstore, as did two other colleges in the state, Bates College in Lewiston and Colby College in Waterville.

Indiana's University of Evansville also pulled Badger's merchandise, telling the Evansville Courier they may have been produced under "inhumane conditions."

How China uses digital surveillance to force minorities to spy on fellow exiles

Texas A&M University apparently pulled Badger merchandise from its site as well, as previously offered products were listed as unavailable. The school did not return requests for comment.

Neither did Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where Badger merchandise could still be found and purchased online. The school is about 70 miles northwest of Badger's home base in Statseville.

Badger's sportswear is also found at Kmart's online marketplace, and at Walmart.com, all offered by third-party vendors. Its merchandise could also be purchased at Amazon.com. None of the three retailers returned requests for comment by CBS MoneyWatch.

Conversely, Badger's merchandise was not to be found on Target's website on Thursday.

First published on December 20, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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