Colleges in Maine have pulled sportswear from shelves in bookstores and online that they purchased from a North Carolina-based company linked to a factory in China said to use forced labor for manufacturing.
The Associated Press reported Monday that it had tracked recent, ongoing shipments from a factory inside an internment camp in western China to Badger Sportswear, a leading sporting apparel supplier in Statesville, North Carolina. Such imports are illegal in the United States.
Badger’s CEO John Anton told the Associated Press that the company would source sportswear elsewhere while it investigates the situation.
Badger sells to a large number of universities throughout the United States, including at least four colleges and universities in Maine, which had advertised online that they sell Badger products in their campus bookstores or on their websites. They are Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Bates College in Lewiston, Colby College in Waterville and the University of Maine in Orono.
The company states in an online notice that less than 1 percent of its product come from the factory alleged to be inside an internment camp, Hetian Taida Apparel Co. It said it requires all suppliers to follow its global sourcing policy, and it has zero tolerance for violations.
“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 said.
Bookstores including Bowdoin buy clothing from suppliers who have a code of conduct.
“We have suspended all sales of Badger products in our store and on our website,” Bowdoin spokesman Doug Cook said. “About 1 percent of our total sales were Badger products.” The store sold Badger T-shirts, shorts and sweatshirts.
Cook said the boxes the store receives only show country of origin, not the factory, so the Badger products could not be traced specifically to the Hetian Taida factory.
“Our local representative said none of the products sold at our store were sourced from that factory,” he said.