The Boston Bruins announced Friday that they have signed defense attorney Mitchell Miller, whose 2020 draft was abandoned by the Arizona Coyotes after a bullying incident was revealed.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the team will “put him into community programs so he can continue to educate himself and others about what disrespect means to you and how you carry that on for the rest of your life.”
After the player was drafted in the fourth round in 2020, the Arizona Republic reported that four years earlier, at the age of 14, Miller had admitted in a juvenile court in Ohio to bullying a black classmate with developmental disabilities.
Classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, was tricked into licking a candy push pop that Miller and another boy wiped down in a bathroom urinal. Meyer-Crothers also told the newspaper that Miller used racial slurs around him.
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“When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely bad decision and acted very immaturely,” Miller said in a statement released by the team on Friday. “I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the person. Since the incident, I have a better understanding of the far-reaching implications of my actions, which I failed to recognize and understand almost seven years ago. I strive to be a better person and make a positive contribution to society.”
The Coyotes waived his rights after the story and the University of North Dakota also fired him, but the United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm brought him back for the 2021-22 season after spending a year without hockey.
Miller, 20, scored 39 goals and 83 points last season and won awards for Player and Defender of the Year.
He will report to the Providence (Rhode Island) Bruins of the American Hockey League after agreeing to an entry-level contract.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity for me and the Bruins,” he told reporters there. “I’m here to get off the ice with community stuff, diversity training and more in the community. I think the Bruins have given me a lot to follow my path. I think I’ll be able to help them on and off the ice.”
Sweeney did not name the programs Miller would attend. He also said he did not reach the victim.
“We were incredibly respectful of what this young man was going through and we felt it was imperative that Mitchell speak to him before he even considered moving on,” Sweeney told reporters in a Zoom call.
Isaiah Meyer-Crothers’ mother, Joni, told WBZ-TV in Boston that her son had been abused for years and that Miller only spoke out via Instagram last week.
“He never reached out to my son, he never reached out to us,” she said. “So it’s annoying when someone calls what my son has endured as a mistake.”
Akim Aliu, chairman of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, criticized Friday’s signing.
“Nothing says ‘NHL culture’ quite like a coordinated Instagram apology from Mitchell Miller to ‘rehabilitate’ him back into the league after years of bullying and torturing someone because of their race and disability. Every aspect of it is disturbing, including his representation,” Aliu tweeted.
Sweeney said the team plans to keep Mitchell at a high level.
“I might have been the person who picked him up at the airport when he arrived in Boston, and I’ll be the first person to drive him to the airport if anything goes wrong,” he said.
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