Tamika D. Mallory, co-founder of Until Freedom, and Reverend Michael McBride, co-founder of the Black Church Political Action Committee, have criticized sports and entertainment collectibles company Panini for lacking diversity in its leadership team. They addressed a letter to Panini America CEO Mark Warsop, highlighting the fact that despite black and brown athletes contributing 75% of the company’s revenue, its executive team does not reflect this diverse athlete base.


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Mallory and McBride argue that the situation is even more problematic considering Panini’s significant profits from black and brown players. They pointed out that out of the 800 employees listed on LinkedIn, only three are black, indicating a severe lack of black representation throughout the company.

The activists issued an ultimatum to Panini, demanding immediate action to rectify its hiring practices by appointing black leadership in crucial positions. Failure to do so would result in a joint effort to encourage Panini’s athletes and partners, including the English Premier League, NBA, NFL, NBA Players Association, and FIFA, to boycott the company.

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In an interview with The Source, Tamika Mallory highlights the changes needed to be made by Panini, the need to address Black leadership, and more.

What prompted you to write this letter to Panini, and why do you feel it’s important to address the lack of black leadership within the organization?

It came to our attention that Panini America, a sports card and memorabilia trading company, has zero Black leadership. However, 75% of the athletes whose imagery they use for their products are Black and Brown. We think that’s unacceptable and must be remedied immediately. 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. 

Can you elaborate on the significance of Panini’s reliance on black and brown athletes for their business, and how the absence of diverse leadership contradicts that?

Panini America’s roster is close to 75% Black and Brown athletes from the NFL, MLB, UFC, NBA, and FIFA. It’s ludicrous that any company profits off of majority Black and Brown athletes but employs no Black People in executive leadership. According to one website, Zippia, that connects people to job opportunities and rigorously analyses 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 significantly Black and where the profit lies. 

What specific changes or reforms are you demanding from Panini regarding their hiring practices and the inclusion of black leadership?

Panini needs to hire an outside firm to review its hiring practices, promotion processes, and recruitment strategies. We are confident that talented Black candidates are inside and outside the company. We want Panini to address any limits to their current policies and commit to do better and ensure fair and equitable hiring and opportunities to excel in the company for all people, regardless of race. 

How do you think Panini’s lack of black leadership reflects broader systemic issues of racial inequality within the sports and entertainment industry?

Panini America is but only one of many companies that has fallen short of practicing true diversity, equity, and inclusion. Across major corporations, Black senior executive leadership is lacking, especially for Black women. We know this is a systemic issue, and 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 of their profits. 

Is there anything else you would like to add or any message you’d like to convey to Panini, its partners, athletes, and the public regarding this issue?

Panini America is not the first company and won’t be our last. We hope Panini takes our concerns and requests seriously and sets an example for other corporations in similar situations moving forward. 

About The Author

Senior Editor

Shawn Grant is a Chicago native and the Senior Editor of The Source Magazine. He can only be found on Instagram and Twitter at @shawnxgrant.

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