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Top Arizona Coyotes draft pick Mitchell Miller has responded to media reports of an incident in which he admitted to bullying a Black, developmentally challenged classmate four years ago.
During the appalling incident in question — which Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero of the Arizona Republic reported in gruesome detail on Monday — Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who has a developmental disability, was tricked into licking a piece of candy that Miller and another boy had wiped in a bathroom urinal when both him and Miller were 14 years old.
Meyer-Crothers said Miller taunted him “for years,” constantly calling him “brownie” and the “N-word,” while also repeatedly physically assaulting him while they were growing up together in Ohio. Students at their junior high school confirmed in police reports that Miller repeatedly used the “N-word” when referring to Meyer-Crothers in general conversation.
Miller and the other unnamed boy admitted to the bullying misdemeanours and were sentenced to 25 hours of community service. Miller is now a freshman defenceman at the University of North Dakota.
A few hours after the story came to light and shook the hockey world, Miller responded to the incidents via a statement through the Coyotes:
"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. Over the past four years, I have had a lot of time to reflect and grow and I am very grateful to the Arizona Coyotes for taking a chance on me. I promise not to let them down.
“Moving forward, I want to be a leader for this cause and help end bullying and racism."
University of North Dakota coach Brad Berry said he and the school were well aware of the incident before bringing Miller to campus:
“We were aware of an unfortunate incident that occurred with Mitchell in eighth grade. We made a decision that our program could provide him the necessary infrastructure and culture to hone not only his hockey abilities but most importantly, assist him in his continuing growth as a human being which will last him the remainder of his life.”
The Coyotes, who consciously decided to use their first pick in this year’s Draft to select Miller despite the numerous red flags and the organization’s knowledge of the incident, echoed similar sentiments to UND in claiming Miller to be a reclamation project while failing to acknowledge the victim — Isaiah Meyer-Crothers — or his traumatic experience in any capacity.
“Mitchell sent a letter to every NHL team acknowledging what happened and apologizing for his behavior. 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.”
Isaiah’s mother, Joni Meyer-Crothers, claimed that the main reason Miller and the other boy admitted to the crime in the first place and avoided a trial was because the incident was caught on surveillance camera and would have been released in court.
She added that as of Monday neither Isaiah nor the Meyer-Crothers family has received any kind of personal apology from Miller.
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