Arizona Coyotes fourth-round draft pick Mitchell Miller admitted to bullying a Black, developmentally disabled classmate four years ago in juvenile court, according to Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero of the Arizona Republic.
The classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, said Miller repeatedly called him "brownie" and used the "N-word" to refer to him. On one occasion, Miller and another student wiped a candy push pop in a bathroom urinal and tricked Meyer-Crothers into licking it.
The two boys were captured on video punching Meyer-Crothers after giving him the candy. Meyer-Crothers' mother Joni said Miller smashed her son's head into a brick wall.
Miller and the other boy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and were sentenced to 25 hours of community service plus a court-ordered apology, but the family said Miller never personally apologized. The Coyotes provided Harris and Romero with a copy of a letter Miller told the team he gave to Meyer-Crothers' family but they said they never received it.
The 18-year-old told NHL teams about his behavior and assault charge ahead of the draft.
"Mitchell sent a letter to every NHL team acknowledging what happened and apologizing for his behavior," Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong explained. "Mitchell made a huge mistake, but we are providing him with a second chance to prove himself. We hope that he uses his platform moving forward to raise awareness about bullying and to discourage this type of behavior."
Team president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez, who was recently named to the NHL's Executive Inclusion Council, explained why the team is sticking by the draft pick in a statement:
"When we first learned of Mitchell's story, it would have been easy for us to dismiss him—many teams did. Instead, we felt it was our responsibility to be a part of the solution in a real way—not just saying and doing the right things ourselves but ensuring that others are too.
"Given our priorities on diversity and inclusion, we believe that we are in the best position to guide Mitchell into becoming a leader for this cause and preventing bullying and racism now and in the future. As an organization, we have made our expectations very clear to him. We are willing to work with Mitchell and put in the time, effort, and energy and provide him with the necessary resources and platform to confront bullying and racism."
Meyer-Crothers hasn't been able to move past the incident and his mother said the Coyotes never contacted the family for more information ahead of the draft.
"It hurt my heart to be honest," he said. "It's stupid that [the Coyotes] didn't go back and look what happened in the past, but I can't do anything about it."
Miller apologized for his actions in a statement through the Coyotes Friday:
"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. 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."
Miller was the Coyotes' top pick in the 2020 draft after going the first three rounds without a selection.
The defenseman from Sylvania, Ohio spent last season playing for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL and is currently enrolled at the University of North Dakota. He also spent time with the under-19 United States national team.