Coyotes renounce rights to draft pick Mitchell Miller after using racial slurs, abusing disabled classmate

The Arizona Coyotes renounced the rights to draft pick Mitchell Miller after it was revealed he bullied and used racial slurs against a Black, disabled classmate. (Eldon Holmes/Tri-City Storm)

The Arizona Coyotes renounced the rights to 2020 NHL Draft pick Mitchell Miller after it was revealed that he repeatedly used racial slurs and abused a Black, disabled classmate named Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.

Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero of the Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that Miller admitted four years ago to an Ohio juvenile court that he bullied Meyer-Crothers repeatedly, while also using the n-word against him. Among the most vicious acts, Miller and another unnamed student made Meyer-Crothers lick a lollipop that had been previously wiped against a bathroom urinal. As a result, Meyer-Crothers had to undergo tests for HIV, hepatitis, and various other sexually transmitted diseases. All of the tests came back negative.

The Coyotes knew of Miller’s past cycle of abuse prior to the draft. Miller wrote a letter to all 31 NHL teams acknowledging the lollipop incident with Meyer-Crothers, and apologized for his role. However, Meyer-Crothers and his family stated that they never received an apology from Miller, even after his admission of abuse to the court, and to the NHL’s 31 teams.

"I fully support our decision to renounce Mitchell Miller's draft rights," Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said in a statement. "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 released a boilerplate statement on Tuesday, stating that the Coyotes are aware of what happened but are providing him with a second chance to prove himself in hopes of using his platform to eradicate bullying.

It was a statement that rung hollow with no tangible action tied to it, and Thursday’s action indicates the Coyotes have perhaps changed their position, upon drawing widespread criticism from the media sector, and more pointedly, the Meyer-Crothers family. After Armstrong’s statement, the Coyotes organization refused to comment publicly on its role in selecting Miller.

Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez released the following statement Thursday, acknowledging that the Coyotes were aware of Miller’s cycle of abuse prior to the 2020 Draft. It is worth noting that Gutierrez was previously named this summer to the NHL’s Executive Inclusion Council, a group that purports to “combat racism and foster diversity” in the sport.

“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.”

At the time of this writing, Miller still hasn’t apologized to Meyer-Crothers directly.

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