Following the expiration of UW-Madison’s five-year contract with Reebok July 31, the UW Board of Regents will enter a contract with Adidas.
Under the university’s new contract all 23 UW athletic teams have agreed to wear Adidas apparel exclusively, while the university will receive merchandise worth about $1.6 million per year. The athletic department will also receive $200,000 in the first year and $250,000 each of the next four.
The university’s unwillingness to renew its contract with Reebok comes after tumultuous exchanges in past years between student activists and university officials over sweatshop labor issues. The issue came to a climax in February 2000 when students sat in protest at the Chancellors office for 96 hours. The Adidas contract will enable UW to study the company’s records to ensure that employees are treated fairly.
Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Steve Malchow said the new deal will be beneficial for concerned activists and the athletic department alike.
“I think it is great that this company has a strong reputation in making their products in proper working conditions,” he said.
UW Vice Chancellor of Administration John Torphy thinks the Adidas contract is impressive as well.
“It goes beyond the Collegiate Licensing Company’s requirements and that of the previous agreement with Reebok,” he said. “Adidas gives UW access to their confidential reports, reflecting [their] commitment.”
Dave Garza of the Student Labor Action Coalition hopes the new contract is a valid one.
“I [hope] UW will take a proactive stance and tell Adidas that the great University of Wisconsin will not stand for unfair labor practices,” he said. “But I don’t think that will happen.”
Torphy defended the latest contract, saying UW has standards that need to be met, including the assurance of healthy working conditions at Adidas.
“[UW] would not have entered into a comprehensive contract with any supplier unless the contract clearly included positive steps towards addressing sweatshop issues,” he said.
Torphy also said that equipping UW athletic teams is an important issue within itself, and without a financially sound contract the teams will not be adequately prepared.
“Clearly, we will be outfitting sport teams whether we have a contract or not,” he said. “Our critical goal is to now move forward and address the sweatshop issues.”
The Adidas contract also includes an incentive for UW to succeed athletically, as wins mean more money for the school.
For example, if the UW football team wins the Big Ten tournament or the basketball teams advance to the Final Four, Adidas will give UW an additional $50,000. If the football team is first in the Associated Press football poll, Adidas will pay UW $250,000.
The contract also includes a measure to reduce compensation if UW teams are banned from appearing on television.