The Arizona Coyotes are renouncing their rights to fourth-round draft pick Mitchell Miller, the subject of a troubling expose published earlier this week. According to Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero of the Arizona Republic, Mitchell, now a freshman at the University of North Dakota, previously bullied a black classmate with disabilities, in one instance tricking Isaiah Meyer-Crothers into licking a candy push pop that had been wiped in a bathroom urinal.
Mitchell’s case was brought to Ohio juvenile court in 2016, where the star defenseman admitted to both bullying and physically assaulting Meyer-Crothers. The charges resulted in his suspension, court-mandated counseling and 25 hours of community service.
Meyer-Crothers described being “sick to his stomach” when hearing that his junior-high tormenter was chosen by the Coyotes earlier this month. “It hurt my heart,” said Meyer-Crothers, who said Miller frequently called him the N-word and other racial epithets. “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.”
Miller expressed remorse for his behavior, attempting to explain himself in letters to teams leading up to the draft. The Coyotes had previously stood by their decision to draft Miller, hoping his past mistakes could serve as a “teachable moment.” However, after looking into the matter more thoroughly, Arizona knew what needed to be done.
“We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately,” wrote Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez in a statement released Thursday. “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.”
“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,” wrote Miller in a statement obtained by the Grand Forks Herald. “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.”
North Dakota has yet to comment on Miller’s status.