North Dakota freshman defenseman Mitchell Miller was involved in bullying and assaulting a black and developmentally-challenged schoolmate four years ago when he was 14 years old, according to a report in AZCentral.com.
Miller was also selected by the Arizona Coyotes in the fourth round (111th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft earlier this month.
The child Miller bullied and assaulted in Sylvania, Ohio, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, has come forward with his family to bring his story to light.
“He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn’t want to do,” Meyer-Crothers said to AZCentral.com. “In junior high, I got beat up by him. Everyone thinks he’s so cool that he gets to go to the NHL, but I don’t see how someone can be cool when you pick on someone and bully someone your entire life.
“It hurt my heart to be honest. It’s stupid that they (Coyotes) didn’t go back and look what happened in the past, but I can’t do anything about it.”
The Coyotes released a statement pertaining to drafting Miller:
“Our fundamental mission is to ensure a safe environment — whether in schools, in our community, in hockey rinks, or in the workplace — to be free of bullying and racism. When we first learned of Mitchell’s story, it would have been easy for us to dismiss him — many teams did. Instead, we felt it was our responsibility to be a part of the solution in a real way — not just saying and doing the right things ourselves but ensuring that others are too,” the statement said.
“Given our priorities on diversity and inclusion, we believe that we are in the best position to guide Mitchell into becoming a leader for this cause and preventing bullying and racism now and in the future. As an organization, we have made our expectations very clear to him. We are willing to work with Mitchell and put in the time, effort, and energy and provide him with the necessary resources and platform to confront bullying and racism. This isn’t a story about excuses or justifications. It’s a story about reflection, growth, and community impact. A true leader finds ways for every person to contribute to the solution. We all need to be a part of the solution.”
Miller also noted that he sent a letter to all NHL teams addressing the issues, and also released a statement:
“I am extremely sorry about the bullying incident that occurred in 2016 while I was in eighth grade. I was young, immature and feel terrible about my actions. At the time, I did not understand the gravity of my actions and how they can affect other people. I have issued an apology to the family for my behavior, completed cultural diversity and sensitivity training and volunteered within my community with organizations such as Little Miracles. Over the past four years, I have had a lot of time to reflect and grow and I am very grateful to the Arizona Coyotes for taking a chance on me. I promise not to let them down. Moving forward, I want to be a leader for this cause and help end bullying and racism.”
According to AZCentral.com, a spokesman for North Dakota said the school was aware of Miller’s past and was aware he had communicated the incident to all NHL teams prior to the draft. The spokesman said the incident happened four years ago.
*** UPDATE: On Thursday, the Coyotes announced they had renounced their rights to Miller. ***
“We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately,” said Coyotes president & CEO Xavier Gutierrez in a statement. “Prior to selecting Mitchell in the NHL Draft, we were aware that a bullying incident took place in 2016. We do not condone this type of behavior but embraced this as a teachable moment to work with Mitchell to make him accountable for his actions and provide him with an opportunity to be a leader on anti-bullying and anti-racism efforts. We have learned more about the entire matter, and more importantly, the impact it has had on Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. What we learned does not align with the core values and vision for our organization and leads to our decision to renounce our draft rights.
“On behalf of the Arizona Coyotes ownership and our entire organization, I would like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. We are building a model franchise on and off the ice and will do the right thing for Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family, our fans and our partners. Mr. Miller is now a free agent and can pursue his dream of becoming an NHL player elsewhere.”