Harrison County

Tim Bennett settles with Biloxi Shuckers. ‘I’m not proud of this lawsuit.’

A lawsuit filed by Overtime Sports owner Tim Bennett against the Biloxi Shuckers, Biloxi Baseball LLC, and managing member Ken Young has been settled — “months ago,” according to Bennett.

Bennett was asked about the status of the lawsuit at a news conference Wednesday announcing the return of the Conference USA tournament to MGM Park.

“The lawsuit was settled six to eight weeks ago, but I didn’t release anything about it because I didn’t want it to be disruptive to the Shuckers’ season,” Bennett said. “As long as that stadium is there, I want to make it successful — I’m not proud of this lawsuit and I hope there’s not another one.”

In the lawsuit, Bennett and Overtime Sports Management Biloxi claimed that Biloxi Baseball was shutting him out of baseball operations.

Bennett is part-owner of the team and worked for 10 years to get a stadium built, as well as to bring the C-USA tournament to Biloxi. He would not disclose the particulars of the settlement, but said he has been reinstated as the vice president of the Shuckers.

Bennett told the Sun Herald in 2017 that his title was stripped from him “without a phone call.” Majority owner Ken Young told the Sun Herald that Bennett was initially made VP “purely at my discretion” then removed “because I didn’t want the public to get confused about if he ever had any authority on the Biloxi Shuckers’ side of the business.”

“I am still one of the owners of the team and I have been named vice president,” Bennett said Wednesday.

But he said he’ll have no day-to-day responsibilities with the Shuckers.

Change in management

In December 2016, the city of Biloxi filed a suit against the owners of the Shuckers and Overtime Sports because the group was unable to determine how much was owed to the city for rent, advertising and ticket sales under the stadium lease. The dispute was settled but the terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.

Bennett also announced that Overtime Sports will no longer be the “official manager of MGM Park.”

“Before, we had an exclusive arrangement where we managed all of the events at the ball park, but now we have opened that up to the team, the city and the Beau Rivage — we have four partners that are able to manage or host events at the ballpark, “ he said. “At the behest of the team and the president, we felt like this was the best step.”

Non-baseball events at MGM Park have been a wash for all involved. Figures released by the city show past concerts at the ballpark, including shows by Dr. John and Nelly, were not as popular as Shuckers games, the stadium’s top draw. And the most attended non-Shuckers event was also baseball — the May 28, 2017, Conference USA Championship brought in 5,126 spectators.

Looking ahead

Bennett said he was glad to be reinstated with the Shuckers.

“It’s a relief for me — I worked 15 years on this project, longer than anyone else and the last thing I want to do is something detrimental to the project,” he said. “There were some issues that I had with the team that I wanted to resolve and we got those resolved and we’re moving forward.”

In the 2017 interview, Bennett said he felt that the Shuckers organization was discriminating against him because he’s black. He said 2016 was the first year he didn’t go to the winter meetings for professional baseball because he didn’t receive an invitation as an owner.

“Why am I not accepted in my stadium? That’s the only question I have,” he said at the time.

When asked Wednesday if he felt the underlying issues with race and the Shuckers were still there, Bennett was optimistic.

“If they’re not we’ll make them better,” Bennett said. “I don’t think discrimination is a bad word because we’ve all felt it at some time.”

He said he hoped to improve race relations in professional baseball by becoming a member of its diversity committee.

“I think getting the lawsuit behind me and shedding some light on things has been a good thing,” Bennett said.

Jeff Clark; @thejeffclark