On June 1, 2022, Tim Bennett, co-owner of the Biloxi Shuckers filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit in Jackson, Mississippi against the Shuckers’ president, Ken Young, for nonpayment of $227,500.
Bennett, who is also the owner of Overtime Sports and operates the Hank Aaron Sports Academy, says, “I’ve requested via email to Ken Young to pay me the money that my contract says I’m due. He has refused to honor the contract for two years and I need to be made whole now. My contract states I am to be paid $100,000 each January and to date I have not been paid for January 2021 and/or 2022.”
According to the lawsuit, racial discrimination is being charged because Young, who is Caucasian, has honored his contracts with other Caucasian vendors and business partners but has not paid Bennett, an African American. Additionally, punitive damages for emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life are being sought by Bennett due to Young’s nonpayment. “I have personal obligations and a responsibility to my business-life relationships to honor contractual agreements that require fiduciary due diligence. Therefore, I could no longer allow the nonpayment situation with Mr. Young to continue without legal remedy.” Thusly, according to the lawsuit, Mr. Ken Young has 21 days after receiving the summons to answer the complaint that has been filed by attorney Tony Gaylor of the Chambers & Gaylor Law Firm in Jackson, Mississippi.
Tim Bennett established his business acumen and laid his footprint in Jackson as he was the architect of the deal that brought the $26 million Mississippi Braves’ Trustmark Park stadium to Pearl, Mississippi in 2005. Bennett’s efforts in Mississippi are wholeheartedly supported by the Atlanta Braves organization as expressed publicly by Michael Plant, president and CEO of the Atlanta Braves Development Company. He stated, “If Hank was still here, he’d be really proud of him. He’s been a real advocate for youth and the minority community. And he has the backing of the governor, the mayor, and the Atlanta Braves organization.”
Bennett has a passion and demonstrated advocacy for the inclusiveness of underrepresented and minority athletes in the sport of baseball that has been solidified with the establishment of the Hank Aaron Sports Academy inside the Smith-Wills Stadium just a few miles from the Mississippi Braves Trustmark Park. “I was inspired and admired longtime promoter of baseball, John Young, the African American professional baseball player turned scout who founded the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program in 1986, a nonprofit that reinforced the need for the participation of underprivileged and frequently minority kids who at one time garnered 18-19% Major League Baseball representation in 1986 that is today down to approximately 7% since the RBI Program was taken over by Major League Baseball 1989. Thus, there has been a subsequent rapid decline and disappearance of Blacks in the Majors since the takeover.
“Nowadays, the Latino and other international players in the Major Leagues is at a steady and consistent 28-30%, and African American participation has continued to wane substantially. John Young created the RBI Program as a feeder program to help minority teenage kids have a chance to be scouted and recruited by colleges and the Major Leagues. The RBI Program addressed the disparities in recruitment practices. Bennett said, “Baseball as a whole has forgotten about Black kids; therefore, I have made it my mission to expose Black kids to the game of baseball that is cost friendly, often times free, and allows them the outlet and opportunity to resume their place in the sport that was historically significant as punctuated by the Negro Leagues of the past.” See “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball” by Kadir Nelson.
The Hank Aaron Sports Academy has developed the Fantastic 44 Summer Series that brings in mostly Black kids from the entire state of Mississippi which includes Canton, Vicksburg, DeSoto, Biloxi, Southaven, Moss Point, and the Mississippi Delta for tryouts June 11, 2022, and June 25, 2022. The Fantastic 44 Summer Series is a matchup that allows minority athletes to come to Jackson then on to Biloxi’s MGM Park (6-2-22) and MS Braves Trustmark Park (6-10-22) to provide them with the exposure and experience of what it feels like to travel. They also get a change to visit historic places like Rickwood Field and old Negro League Park in Birmingham, Alabama (7-15-22). The series culminates with a trip to the Atlanta Braves Truist Park (7-29-22) in the ATL.
The Fantastic 44 Summer Series has signed up about 100 kids in 2022 and expects more by the 2nd tryout on June 25, 2022.
As an added Black History experience and educational event, Mississippi native and civil rights activist James Meredith recently visited the Hank Aaron Sports Academy to support Bennett’s efforts to bring the game of baseball back to the Black communities and to emphasize to the athletes how important it is for African Americans to stand up for their civil rights. Bennett said, “My lawsuit illuminates the need for me to receive payment as it affects my endeavors to operate and offer programs such as the Fantastic 44 Summer Series while upholding and financially protecting the operation of my business entities and pursuits at the local, regional, and national levels. As a Black businessman, I must pursue legal remedy for nonpayment when the powers-that-be don’t treat me with the same veracity and speed as they do others.”
In a personal interview with the Jackson Advocate, Meredith said, “I believe in what Tim Bennett is doing for African American youth in Mississippi with regards to trying to reintroduce the sport of baseball back into our community. I feel Bennett’s efforts are to be applauded because this gives our kids an opportunity to experience and be exposed free of charge to Major League Baseball scouts and people in that industry.”
Additional support has been garnered for Bennett and the Hank Aaron Sports Academy that comes by way of the attendance and endorsement by Tyrone Brooks, senior director of Major League Baseball’s Diversity Pipeline Program. In Brooks’ position, he prepares athletes to understand and be aware of the intricacies of the baseball industry on and off the field with emphasis on the inner workings of the business and commercial side of the sport. In an interview, Brooks attested to Bennett’s servicing of Black athletes and nurturing their plight as an integral part of the sport of baseball throughout the entire state of Mississippi.
Bennett credits his strong family, Christian beliefs, the Braves organization, Major League Baseball, and so many of Mississippi’s politicians, business persons, and local community for his successes and becoming the state’s first African American owner of a professional MLB affiliated team, stating, “I refuse to let one bad instance in my life ruin or jeopardize what so many of us from different races, genders, and backgrounds worked so hard to achieve here in Mississippi.”
As of press time, Ken Young, president of the Biloxi Shuckers, had not responded to the Jackson Advocate’s request for comment regarding Bennett’s federal racial discrimination lawsuit.