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U.S. colleges pulling sportswear traced to Chinese detention camps

Forced labor in China produced U.S. imports

Badger Sportswear merchandise is getting pulled from the shelves of college bookstores across the country after a report linking the North Carolina company's products to forced labor at detention camps in China

The Statesville, North Carolina, company said it would source its athletic wear elsewhere while looking into an Associated Press report that some of its products were sewn by Muslims held at internment camps in China's Xinjiang region. Imports involving forced labor are not legal in the U.S.

A spokesperson for CCMP Capital Advisor, a private-equity firm that acquired Badger in 2016, declined comment in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

Less than 1 percent of its jerseys and other athletic sportswear comes from the Hetian Taida Apparel Co. factory allegedly housed inside an internment camp in Xinjiang, Badger Sportswear stated in an online post.

"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 added.

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But Badger saying it would suspend further shipments pending an investigation isn't assuaging all of its customers, which include youth sports leagues and colleges around the country.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, is among the institutions pulling the plug on Badger merchandise sales, at least for the moment. Bowdoin has suspended sales of the Badger-supplied T-shirts, shorts and sweatshirts while the company completes its investigation, a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. Bowdoin was informed the Badger products it previously carried were not made at the factory cited in the AP report.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the University of Maine in Orono has also removed Badger Sportswear hoodies, pants, jackets and T-shirts from its bookstore, as did two other colleges in the state, Bates College in Lewiston and Colby College in Waterville.

Indiana's University of Evansville also pulled Badger's merchandise, saying in a statement emailed to CBS MoneyWatch the products may have been produced under "inhumane conditions." 

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Texas A&M University pulled Badger merchandise from its site as well, as previously offered products were listed as unavailable. 

"Texas A&M University works with our licensing agency [IMG Collegiate Licensing] and our licensed vendors to help ensure that products being produced, which bear our emblematic trademarks, are done in a safe and appropriate manner," Shane Hinckley, vice president of brand development at the school, explained in a statement. "Texas A&M in no way condones or supports the use of forced labor under any circumstances."

At least one Badger T-shirt could still be found for sale online at the bookstore for Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Still, a spokesperson said in an email that the university had terminated its licensing agreement with Badger, citing the university's policy setting out fair labor expectations, and was no longer selling its products. The school is about 70 miles northwest of Badger's home base in Statesville.

Badger's sportswear is also found at Kmart's online marketplace, and at Walmart.com, all offered by third-party vendors. Its merchandise could also be purchased at Amazon.com. None of the three retailers returned requests for comment.

Conversely, Badger's merchandise was not to be found on Target's website on Thursday.