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ADIDAS IN THE CENTER OF BALL MANUFACTURING CONTROVERSY
Published June 26, 1998
adidas-Salomon AG is "facing embarrassing claims that some of the soccer balls it made to commemorate the World Cup were sewn by political prisoners at a Chinese labor camp," according to Smith & Copetas of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The allegations are over whether balls were made by an adidas sub-contractor at a political labor camp and the dispute "leaves open the possibility that the promotional World Cup balls worked on" by Bao Ge, a former Chinese political prisoner -- who is suing Adidas -- "weren't genuine Adidas products, or were unauthorized by the company. That was a possibility the company raised when first contacted. Subsequently, both Adidas and its suppliers suggested that the balls may have been authentic, but made in the labor camp without Adidas's knowledge." Smith & Copetas report that although adidas "prides itself on its close monitoring of production, this case shows the danger of selling your name to companies manufacturing in a country as poorly regulated as China." adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus: "If it turns out that even one item was made by slave labor or in a prison camp, heads will roll, maybe even my own" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/26). COMING UP SHORT: In Oakland, Art Spander wrote that adidas focused much of its World Cup advertising spending in Europe tailored around "five of the world's best soccer players." But the players "either haven't been picked to play for their countries or have been sent off the field for dirty tactics." One adidas spokesperson: "We are not jinxed" (Art Spander, OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 6/24).