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"EYE TO EYE" EXAMINES SOCCER COMPANIES AND CHILD LABOR
Published April 7, 1995
On CBS's "Eye to Eye" last night, the feature "Children at Work" reported on the violation of child labor laws in Pakistan. One of the most flagrant violations is in the production of soccer balls sold in the United States. CBS' Roberta Baskin reported that about "half the soccer balls in America are made in Pakistan." The leather is made in the big cities of Pakistan, but "the handicraft, the world famous stitching is not done here. It is done in the surrounding villages and much of that work is done by the children of Pakistan." Sublime ships balls to the U.S. to adidas and Reebok, and the president of Sublime, one of the largest soccer ball manufacturers in Pakistan, told CBS they have "not allowed" young children to do the stitching on their soccer balls. At the adidas America headquarters in Portland, OR, CBS spoke to Tom Kain, who manages the U.S. Soccer Division and said "he didn't believe" that children were used to produce the balls. CBS then showed Kain videotape of the young children stitching adidas balls. Kain: "I'm surprised, and concerned, and I guarantee that the adidas company is not going to sit still and accept this. If that situation is improper or not helpful to those children we will take a look at it." Reebok responded in a written statement that "both child labor and bonded labor violate their human rights policy, and that it has taken immediate action to cease business with the Sublime factory pending its own investigation" ("Eye to Eye," CBS, 4/6). PRE-SPONSE: The Soccer Industry Council of America released a statement prior to the airing of the show accusing CBS of a "sensationalists approach." Their response: 1) Neither SICA nor any member companies were aware such a problem existed; 2) CBS did not inform SICA or its member companies when the investigation began in February. When Reebok was informed on March 23, they immediately suspended their relationship with their Pakistani supplier; 3) SICA is in the process of developing guidelines covering the supplier relationship; 4) Both adidas and Reebok are concerned about unfair labor practices and are committed to investigate the situations raised in the report. Neither company tried to hide anything (SICA).