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Mitchell Miller kicked off university team after Arizona Coyotes renounce prospect over abuse, bullying

Last Updated Oct 30, 2020 at 9:58 am PST

Arizona Coyotes prospect Mitchell Miller skates during the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup bronze medal game. (Codie McLachlan/CP)
Summary

Arizona Coyotes renounced rights to draft pick Mitchell Miller after troubling incident from player's past came to light

The University of Dakota has decided Mitchell Miller will not play for the school's team

Miller admitted to bullying classmate who is Black and has a learning disability in 2016

PHEONIX – The day after the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes made the rare move of renouncing the rights to one of their draft picks over past abuse and bullying, the university team he was set to play for also severed ties.

In a statement, University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost said he had been “closely monitoring the situation” concerning Mitchell Miller, who was charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act in February of 2016 after he and another student admitted to bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a classmate who is Black and has a learning disability.

“After much consideration and discussions with Mitchell, the Miller family, our Athletics Director, Bill Chaves, and Coach Brad Berry, I have decided that the best course of action for Mitchell and the University is that he no longer be a member of the UND Men’s Hockey program,” the statement reads.

Miller will be allowed to stay on as a student, Armacost added.

The university’s move came after the Coyotes announced they were renouncing the rights to Miller.

“Prior to selecting Mitchell in the NHL Draft, we were aware that a bullying incident took place in 2016,” Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said, via a team statement issued Thursday. “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.”

The statement says the team has since “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,” Gutierrez said, apologizing to both Isaiah and his family, adding the organization is building “a model franchise on and off the ice,” and that it would do the right thing.

Miller is now a free agent, and the Coyotes say he’s able to pursue his NHL dream elsewhere.

Local report brings past conviction to light

News of Mitchell’s conviction was first brought to the surface by The Arizona Republic, whose article included quotes from Meyer-Crothers and his mother, Joni.

Isaiah, who is now 18, told the Republic that Miller had taunted him for years growing up and called him names like “brownie” and used the “N-word” while repeatedly hitting him. He said it “hurt my heart” when he saw the news that Miller had been drafted by the Coyotes.

“Put yourself in our position. Would you be okay with it?” Joni said. “It’s a joke that a sports team, especially with all the stuff going on with Black Lives Matter, would do this.”

The Hockey Diversity Alliance issued a statement urging the league and the team to act days after The Republic’s report, writing “We will not support, partner with or accept support from any organization that has engaged in, promoted, or failed to appropriately respond to racist conduct in their organization of any kind (including, without limitation, the proliferation of hate speech, discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities and other areas such as employment.”

The alliance, formed earlier this year by current and former hockey players whose stated goal is to eradicate systemic racism and intolerance in hockey, added that the Coyotes’ drafting of Miller “shows that ‘zero tolerance’ of racism can’t be taken for granted in the NHL.”