Tamika D. Mallory, a prominent social justice activist and co-founder of Until Freedom, is taking a stand against Panini America, a sports collectibles organization, for its lack of black leadership. In an interview, Mallory expressed her concerns about the company’s practices and called for immediate action to rectify the situation.

Addressing the issue, Mallory stated, “Mr. Warsop should want his company to represent and reflect society’s diversity. Therefore, we can only assume that the lack of diversity at Panini’s executive leadership is both a result of a deliberate corporate mindset and systemic bias.” She emphasized the importance of companies embracing diversity and inclusion, especially when they profit significantly from black and brown athletes.

Mallory outlined several actions that Panini should take to address the lack of black leadership within the organization. She called for a complete overhaul of corporate practices, including hiring professionals to conduct a company-wide assessment and implementing internal changes. Additionally, she urged Panini to look at its current black and brown employees and identify opportunities for immediate advancement.

When asked about creating an inclusive work environment for marginalized communities, Mallory stressed the significance of hiring senior executives who represent diverse backgrounds. She highlighted the need for Panini’s African American employees to feel valued and acknowledged, emphasizing that the company should not perpetuate an environment reminiscent of the 1950s, where white individuals held dominant positions while black individuals were relegated to labor roles.

Mallory’s efforts to address the lack of diversity at Panini extend beyond the interview. Alongside Reverend Michael McBride, co-founder of the Black Church Political Action Committee, she penned a letter to Panini America CEO Mark Warsop. The letter criticizes the organization’s absence of black leadership and demands immediate reform in its hiring practices.

Panini America heavily relies on black and brown athletes, with 75 percent of its business stemming from them. However, the company’s leadership team does not reflect this diversity. Furthermore, the letter highlights the fact that out of Panini’s 800 employees listed on LinkedIn, only three are black. This disparity underscores the lack of representation throughout the entire organization.

Mallory and McBride have given Panini an ultimatum to take corrective action and hire black leadership in key positions promptly. If the company fails to meet its demands, they plan to call for a boycott by Panini’s partners and athletes, including renowned organizations like the NBA, NFL, FIFA, NBA Players Association, NFL Players Association, and English Premier League.

To amplify their message, Mallory and McBride have also shared their concerns with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta. By involving these officials, they hope to pressure Panini into addressing its lack of diversity and fostering a more inclusive environment.

Tamika D. Mallory’s activism and dedication to social justice have propelled her to the forefront of the movement. As a co-founder of Until Freedom and an advocate for racial equality, Mallory continues to fight for the representation and empowerment of marginalized communities. With her latest efforts focused on Panini America, she aims to bring about meaningful change in the company’s leadership structure and set a precedent for diversity and inclusion in the sports collectibles industry.

Given that Panini America has generated billions of dollars in revenue from black and brown athletes, do you think their lack of black leadership is a deliberate exclusionary practice or a result of systemic biases within the company?

Until we meet with Mr. Warsop and the team at Panini, we cannot say what his intentions are. But we can say that Mr. Warsop should want his company to represent and reflect society’s diversity. Therefore, we can only assume that the lack of diversity at Panini’s executive leadership is both a result of a deliberate corporate mindset and systemic bias.

What specific actions should Panini take to rectify their lack of black leadership? Are there any benchmarks or timelines you believe they should meet to demonstrate genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion?

We know that lack of diversity in corporate America is a systemic issue but we choose to call companies like Panini America to a higher moral ground where they acknowledge their deficiencies and commit to a process to make their company a more diverse and equitable space that values Black leadership and representation amongst their ranks and not just off their profits. There should be a complete overhaul of their corporate practices including but not limited to: immediately hiring professionals and do a company-wide assessment to support with internal changes, and looking at their current Black and Brown employees to see where there may be opportunity for immediate advancement.

Beyond hiring black leadership, what other measures do you believe are necessary for Panini to create an inclusive and equitable work environment for its employees, particularly those who identify as black or belong to other marginalized communities?

Panini should start with hiring senior executives, which will encourage its workers to see opportunities for advancement to senior level positions. Panini should ensure that its African American employees at all levels do not feel as if they are working for a company from the 1950’s where white people were the dominant presence and Black folks were merely laborers.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Tamika Mallory