“Social Justice Activist Tamika Mallory Takes on Panini America’s Lack of Diversity in Leadership

Sports collectibles organization Panini America finds itself at the center of a storm brewing over its glaring lack of diversity in leadership. As the company rakes in billions of dollars in revenue from the talents of black and brown athletes, Tamika D. Mallory, a prominent social justice activist, is leading the charge for change. In an exclusive interview with Contrast, Mallory sheds light on her motivations and plans to mobilize against Panini’s exploitation.


Mallory, alongside Reverend Michael McBride, co-founder of the Black Church Political Action Committee, recently penned a letter to Panini America CEO Mark Warsop, decrying the stark disparity between the company’s executive team and the diverse athletes it heavily relies on. Astoundingly, despite 75 percent of the organization’s business hinging on the prowess of black and brown athletes, the leadership team fails to reflect this diversity at all levels.


With a roster boasting superstars from the NFL, NBA, FIFA, and more, Panini America has built an empire by capitalizing on the talents, appearances, and intellectual property of black and brown athletes. Yet, a closer look at the company’s demographics reveals a stark contrast. Only 10 percent of Panini America’s workforce is African or African American, with none holding positions of leadership. The numbers speak volumes: the company utilizes the imagery of black and brown athletes for their profitable merchandise, yet erases their presence when it comes to corporate decision-making.


In response to Panini’s disregard for diversity, Mallory lays out her plans to rally the NBA, NFL, FIFA, and other athletes for a potential boycott of the sports collectibles giant. She hopes that Panini will heed the call for reform, setting an example for corporations facing similar disparities. However, if the company fails to address the issue, Mallory is more than ready to unleash her considerable influence and network of notable athletes, media allies, and entertainment industry figures.

Critics who argue for a merit-based approach to leadership positions face tough questions from Mallory. She demands transparency regarding Panini’s hiring processes, the advancement opportunities for black and brown employees, and the company’s efforts to diversify its outreach. The activist underscores the hypocrisy of profiting from collaborations with black and brown athletes while excluding these communities from positions of power.

As Mallory and McBride continue their fight for equality, they have extended their demands beyond Panini’s doors. They have sought support from influential figures such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta. The activists’ letter highlights the sheer hypocrisy of Panini’s business model, pointing out the incongruity of profiting from collaborations with black and brown athletes while simultaneously sidelining black individuals in leadership roles.

Tamika D. Mallory, a nationally recognized civil rights activist, is no stranger to spearheading movements for racial justice. As a co-founder of Until Freedom, her organization stands at the intersection of social justice, tackling systemic injustices head-on with diverse leadership. Mallory’s commitment to the representation and empowerment of marginalized communities makes her a formidable force in the fight against racial inequality.

Panini America may have underestimated the resilience of a growing movement determined to dismantle systemic exploitation. With Tamika Mallory at the helm, the sports collectibles giant finds itself confronted by a force demanding accountability and justice. As the campaign gains momentum, only time will tell if Panini will finally step up and make the much-needed changes or face the consequences of a united front against its exploitation of black and brown talent.

What motivated you and Reverend Michael McBride to write a letter to Panini America regarding their lack of black leadership? As racial justice leaders, it’s not unusual for concerned individuals and community members to contact us with grievances. It came to our attention that Panini America, a sports card and memorabilia trading company has little to no Black leadership, although 75% of the athletes whose imagery they use for their products are Black. We think that’s unacceptable and must be remedied immediately. So we brought our teams together to strategize.


Why do you believe it is important for a company like Panini, which heavily relies on black and brown athletes, to have diversity in its leadership team? We will not accept another company profiting off of Black people and Black talent without Black people in the company’s leadership. It’s nothing more than exploitation. Panini America’s roster is close to 75% Black athletes from the NFL, MLB, UFC, NBA, and FIFA. It’s ludicrous that any company profits off of the majority of Black athletes but employs no Black people in its executive leadership. According to the website Zippia, which connects people to job opportunities and rigorously analyzes publicly available data about companies, Panini America only has 10% African or African American employees but none hold positions of leadership, in contrast to 75% of athletes on their sports cards and memorabilia who are Black, and represent the most profitable merchandise.


In the event that Panini does not address the issue of black leadership, how do you plan to mobilize the NBA, NFL, FIFA, and other athletes to boycott the company? We hope Panini takes our concerns and requests seriously and sets an example for other corporations in similar situations moving forward. But if they ignore our concerns, we will not hesitate to organize our considerable roster of notable athletes, athletic managers, and representatives, our friends in media, the arts and entertainment, and more to illuminate the massive inequity at Panini’s executive level. Until Freedom and Black Church PAC have been organizing around issues of racial inequality at the highest levels. We have many ways to put public pressure on a company – we’ve done it many times before with great success and are ready to escalate this campaign when necessary.


How do you respond to critics who argue that the focus should be on individual qualifications rather than race or ethnicity when it comes to hiring leadership positions? This is what we’d like to know – what exactly are the qualifications of senior-level positions at Panini? What is the matriculation process for Black and Brown employees, and all employees, to be promoted to senior-level positions? Why are Black and Brown employees NOT moving up? What is their hiring process? What efforts have they made to diversify their job search outreach? 


In terms of whether a candidate’s race or ethnicity matters – it seems to very much matter – to white people. What we see by the numbers is that Panini has chosen a culture and identity – almost across their executive landscape they’ve chosen the white race. Their sporting goods and trading cards use the talent, appearances, and intellectual property – more than 75% – of Black and Brown folks, yet that community is completely erased at the corporate level.



Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Contrast Magazine. michael@contrastmag.us


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