Bruins sign defenseman convicted in racist bullying incident as teen originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
This story originally appeared on NBCBoston.com.
The Boston Bruins announced Friday that they signed defenseman Mitchell Miller, who was released by the Arizona Coyotes shortly after being drafted in 2020 after reports surfaced of his conviction for bullying a Black classmate with developmental disabilities when he was 14 years old.
The Bruins news release announcing Miller's signing to an entry-level contract leads with a quote from Miller apologizing for the 2016 incident.
“When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely,” Miller said. “I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the individual. Since the incident, I have come to better understand the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to recognize and understand nearly seven years ago. I strive to be a better person and positively contribute to society."
He added that as a member of the Bruins organization, he will continue to participate in community programs to educate himself and share his mistakes with others.
Miller pleaded guilty at age 14 to one count of assault and one count of violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act. He and another teenager were accused of making a 14-year-old eat a candy push pop after wiping it in a bathroom urinal, and surveillance video showed them kicking and punching him.
The victim told the Arizona Republic in 2020 that he was stunned and saddened when he found out the Coyotes drafted Miller, who he said taunted him with racist language and repeatedly hit him when they were growing up in a suburb of Toledo.
“It hurt my heart to be honest,” he told the newspaper. “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 sent a letter to every NHL team prior to the draft acknowledging what happened and apologizing for his behavior. The victim's mother said Miller never personally apologized to him or their family, other than a court-mandated letter.
"To be clear, what I did when I was 14 years old was wrong and unacceptable," Miller said in his statement. "There is no place in this world for being disrespectful to others and I pledge to use this opportunity to speak out against mistreating others.”
Miller's comments in Friday's news release were immediately followed by a statement from Bruins President Cam Neely, who said the team's hockey operations and community relations groups spent time with the player in recent weeks prior to signing him "to better understand who he is as an individual and learn more about a significant mistake he made when he was in middle school."
Neely said Miller was accountable for his past behavior and demonstrated his commitment to work to further his education "and use his mistake as a teachable moment for others."
“Representing the Boston Bruins is a privilege we take seriously as an organization,” Neely said. “Respect and integrity are foundational character traits we expect of our players and staff... The expectation is that he will continue this important educational work with personal development and community programs as a member of the Bruins organization."
Since his release by the Coyotes, Miller, 20, has been playing in the minors. He played 60 games with the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League in 2021-22, recording 39 goals and 44 assists for 83 total points. He was named the USHL's Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year after the season.
Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was scheduled to answer questions about the signing on a Zoom call with the media at 1 p.m. Miller will report to the Providence Bruins and is expected to speak to media after the team's 12 p.m. practice at Providence College.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.