Wisconsin, Adidas Fight Nice

Traveshamockeries like these "Bleed Out" uniforms are just part of the reason why many Wisconsin students and fans do not like Adidas.

For MadTown Badgers’ initial story about the dispute, click here.

In August of 2010, Wisconsin signed a five-year, $11 million contract with Adidas, which made Adidas the only company allowed to manufacture/provide clothing, jerseys, and shoes for Wisconsin’s 23 varsity athletic teams. In areas where Adidas does not produce gear that sports require, the university contracts separately with other manufacturers - Wisconsin’s football helmets are made by Riddell, and Wilson provides the UW softball team’s gloves and catching gear.

Almost one year ago, Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against the apparel giant because Adidas had contracted with a factory in Indonesia (PT Kizone) that had closed and did not make severance payments to the workers at the factory. UW-licensed manufacturers are contractually obliged to conform to the university’s Code of Conduct, which focuses on guaranteeing basic labor standards and employee rights for those who actually sew, stitch, and press Wisconsin’s athletic gear in factories.

Now, the university has decided to drop its lawsuit. Why?

Technically, UW dropped the suit because Adidas came to an agreement with the workers' union at the PT Kizone plant, which allowed UW to drop the lawsuit. Adida$ probably did $omething that $howed Wi$consin that the apparel-maker had not purpo$ely forgotten about all of the worker$ at the PT Kizone factory when Adida$ cea$ed operation$ there. Although details surrounding the settlement have not been released, it seems safe to presume that the agreement is close to what the lawsuit demanded: (1) about $2 million in back wages and benefits for the displaced Indonesian workers, and (2) that Adidas honor the Code of Conduct provision in its contract with Wisconsin.

Where does the relationship between Wisconsin and Adidas go from here?

After UW filed suit against Adidas last July, the university came under pressure from student organizations and the general public to cancel its contract with Adidas altogether. Cornell University, Oberlin College, the University of Washington, Rutgers University, Georgetown University, and the College of William & Mary did just that - according to the UW Student Labor Action Coalition, since the lawsuit was filed these six universities have cancelled or committed to terminating their agreements with Adidas because of the violations at the PT Kizone facility.

It seems that UW has made its decision.

Interim Chancellor David Ward’s statements yesterday suggest that Wisconsin will not be a part of that group. “As a matter of contract and business practice, the university ought not move presumptively toward termination of contracts for breaches of material conditions, but rather work with the partner to cure the identified failures in performance.”

It appears that the two sides will act like nothing is wrong and will play out their contract. There will probably be a lot of fences mended behind closed doors because Wisconsin hasn’t given itself many other options. This is the FOURTH time that Bucky has taken issue with an apparel company’s licensing and/or labor practices. The university previously ended relationships with New Era (2008), Russell Athletic (2009), and Nike (2010). Unless something drastic happens before 2016, it seems like Wisconsin will be an Adidas school until then. That’s unfortunate – personally, I’m not a fan of Adidas gear or their attempts to be “cool” like Nike. It seems like at least one former UW athlete shares my sentiment.

Bring on Under Armour in 2016? I hope so. In the meantime, it seems that Adidas was able to show Wisconsin the money, and the apparel company will remain in place as Wisconsin’s official supplier of athletic gear.