The Boston Bruins announced Friday that they have signed defenseman Mitchell Miller, whose 2020 draft by the Arizona Coyotes was renounced after a bullying incident came to light.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the team would “put him in community programs so he continues to educate himself and others about what being disrespectful does for you and how you continue to carry that for the rest of your life.”
After the player was drafted in the fourth round in 2020, the Arizona Republic reported that Miller four years earlier, at age 14, had admitted in an Ohio juvenile court to bullying a Black classmate who had developmental disabilities.
The classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, was tricked into licking a candy push pop that Miller and another boy had wiped in a bathroom urinal. Meyer-Crothers also told the newspaper that Miller had used racial slurs around him.
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“When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely,” Miller said Friday in a statement released by the team. “I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the individual. Since the incident, I have come to better understand the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to recognize and understand nearly seven years ago. I strive to be a better person and positively contribute to society.”
The Coyotes renounced his rights after the story and the University of North Dakota also dismissed him, but the United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm brought him back for the 2021-22 season after he spent a year out of hockey.
Miller, 20, had 39 goals and 83 points last season, winning awards for player and defenseman of the year.
He’ll report to the American Hockey League’s Providence (Rhode Island) Bruins after agreeing to an entry-level deal.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity for me and the Bruins,” he told reporters there. “I’m here to better myself off the ice with community stuff, diversity training, being in the community more. I think the Bruins have offered a lot to me to be able to follow my path. I think I’ll be able to help them on and off the ice.”
Sweeney didn’t name the programs that Miller would attend. He also said he didn’t reach out to the victim.
“We were incredibly respectful of what this young man was put through, and we felt that it was imperative that Mitchell spoke to him prior to even considering moving forward,” Sweeney told reporters in a Zoom call.
Isaiah Meyer-Crothers’ mother, Joni, told WBZ-TV in Boston that her son endured years of abuse and that Miller had reached out only last week via Instagram.
“He’s never reached out to my son, he never reached out to us,” she said. “So, for somebody to refer to it as a mistake, what my son endured, is infuriating.”
Sweeney said the team will hold Mitchell to a high standard.
“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 sideways,” he said.