NHL’s Arizona Coyotes renounce Mitchell Miller’s draft rights amid bullying report

NHL's Arizona Coyotes renounce Mitchell Miller's draft rights amid bullying report

The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes have renounced the draft rights of 2020 fourth-round pick Mitchell Miller after learning the 18-year-old defenseman bullied an African-American classmate with developmental disabilities four years ago.

The Coyotes came under scrutiny for allegedly failing to perform due diligence when it came to picking Miller. The team announced Thursday it would no longer hold Miller’s draft rights.

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“We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately,” Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said in a news release. “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.”

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Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong expressed his support for the decision.

“It was a unique situation for me not being able to participate in this year’s Draft and we were going through a transition with our scouting department. Mitchell is a good hockey player, but we need to do the right thing as an organization and not just as a hockey team. I’d like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family for everything they have dealt with the past few months. I wish them all the best in the future,” Armstrong said.

The classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, spoke with the Arizona Republic regarding his history with Miller after seeing his tormentor selected at No. 111 in early October. The two attended school together in Sylvania, Ohio, where Miller tricked Meyer-Crothers into licking a candy push-pop that was wiped in a bathroom urinal, resulting in Meyer-Crothers to be tested for hepatitis, HIV and STDs, Meyer-Crothers said.

Miller and another teenager were charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act in February 2016. They admitted to bullying misdemeanors and were sentenced to 25 hours of community service.

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Meyer-Crothers, who at the time had the mental ability of a 10-year-old, also says Miller constantly called him “brownie” and the “N-word,” while repeatedly beating him during their childhood in the Toledo suburb. Students at their junior high confirmed to police that Miller used racist language toward him.

“He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn’t want to do,” Meyer-Crothers, now 18, told the Arizona Republic. “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.”

Miller, who issued a statement Monday, informed teams of his past ahead of the draft, and his NCAA team, North Dakota, says it was aware of the accusations during his recruitment, as well.

“I am extremely sorry about the bullying incident that occurred in 2016 while I was in eighth grade,” Miller said. “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.

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“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.”

Meyer-Crothers says he has never received a personal apology from Miller.

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

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