The Arizona Coyotes have renounced the rights for 2020 draft pick Mitchell Miller, the team announced Thursday.
The move comes after it was revealed earlier this week that Miller 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.
“We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately,” Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said, via a team statement issued Thursday. “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.”
Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong also provided a statement:
“I fully support our decision to renounce Mitchell Miller’s draft rights,” Armstrong said. “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, as he noted, was not permitted to be at the helm of the Coyotes' draft this year per an agreement with his former club, the St. Louis Blues. The Coyotes selected Miller in the fourth round (111th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft.
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.
"Put yourself in our position. Would you be okay with it?" Joni Meyer-Crothers said. "It's a joke that a sports team, especially with all the stuff going on with Black Lives Matter, would do this."
Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, 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.
In the days since The Republic's report, The Hockey Diversity Alliance -- a group founded earlier this year by current and former hockey players whose stated goal is to eradicate systemic racism and intolerance in hockey -- issued a statement urging the NHL and the Coyotes to act.