The Arizona Coyotes have renounced the rights to sign 2020 NHL draft pick Mitchell Miller, after he admitted to having bullied a black disabled teen in high school.
The 19-year-old hockey player was a controversial pick because in 2016, when he was 15, he was charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act for harassing and bullying a black classmate with developmental disabilities.
The team initially thought that Miller could be signed, and the 2016 incident could be a “teachable moment” with which they could counsel Miller on bullying. But this week, the team did an about-face and decided to take a pass on him, according to TSN.
Miller was selected on Oct. 7 as the 111th overall pick in the fourth round of the NHL draft. Though, now team president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez has decided to go in a different direction.
“We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately,” Gutierrez said in a statement issued on Thursday.
“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,” Gutierrez wrote. “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,” Gutierrez concluded.
Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong agreed with the Gutierrez statement and also noted that the team must “apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family for everything they have dealt with the past few months.”
The victim, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, had spoken out when he heard that the Coyotes drafted Miller.
“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,” Meyer-Crothers told the media, according to ESPN.
For his part, Miller has apologized for the incident.
“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,” he said in a letter sent to all 31 NFL teams this year.
Still, the player, who has committed to the University of North Dakota next season, has taken criticism for not apologizing directly to Mr. Meyer-Crothers.
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