Mitchell Miller's Rights Renounced by Coyotes over 2016 Bullying Incident

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2020

Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne (35), of Finland, stands in the projection of the Phoenix Coyotes logo prior to the start  of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, April 7, 2010, in Glendale, Ariz.  The Coyotes defeated the Predators 5-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The Arizona Coyotes announced the club has renounced the rights to draft pick Mitchell Miller for bullying a Black, developmentally disabled classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, in 2016.

Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez provided a statement on the decision:

"We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately. 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."

In 2016, Miller was convicted in juvenile court of abusing Meyer-Crothers along with another student. They were in eighth grade at the time.

Meyer-Crothers told Craig Harris and Craig Romero of the Arizona Republic that Miller and the other student called him racial epithets and bullied him in other ways. The two boys also tricked Meyer-Crothers into licking a lollipop that had been placed in a urinal. A video recording also captured the two boys punching Meyer-Crothers, and his mother Joni Meyer-Crothers said the Miller smashed her son's head into a brick wall.

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According to Joni Meyer-Crothers, Miller never apologized personally to Isaiah for his actions, though he did write a court-mandated apology letter. He also sent a letter acknowledging his mistake to NHL teams ahead of the draft.

In her own letter published by The Athletic's Aaron PortzlineJoni Meyer-Crothers criticized the Coyotes for drafting her son's tormenter:

"The bully incident that continued over years has damaged our son mentally significantly and your organization is more concerned about Mitchell and your hockey success. In my opinion, that is being part of the problem. There is a victim out there that was and still at the hands of your 111th pick."

Joni Meyer-Crothers also said the family was never contacted by Arizona or any other NHL team to obtain more information about Miller.

The Coyotes, who took Miller in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, initially stood by their selection.

"When we first learned of Mitchell’s story, it would have been easy for us to dismiss him—many teams did," the club statement read. "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."