Arizona Coyotes prospect Mitchell Miller was charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act in February of 2016, the Arizona Republic reports, after he and another student admitted to bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a classmate who is Black and has a learning disability.
A police report obtained by the Republic states that Miller and the other student forced Meyer-Crothers to eat candy that had been in a urinal. It goes on to say that the two teens then punched and pushed the boy, and Miller lied to school officials about his involvement. Miller, who was 14 at the time of the incident, and the other teen were "sentenced to 25 hours of community service and were ordered to write an apology through the court system to Meyer-Crothers, participate in counselling and pay court costs," the Republic reports.
The Coyotes selected Miller, now 18, in the fourth round of the NHL Draft earlier this month. In a statement provided to the Republic, the team says it was aware of Miller's conviction before selecting him but "Given our priorities on diversity and inclusion, we believe that we are in the best position to guide Mitchell into becoming a leader for this cause and preventing bullying and racism now and in the future.
“Our fundamental mission is to ensure a safe environment — whether in schools, in our community, in hockey rinks, or in the workplace — to be free of bullying and racism," the statement reads in part. "When we first learned of Mitchell’s story, it would have been easy for us to dismiss him — many teams did. Instead, we felt it was our responsibility to be a part of the solution in a real way — not just saying and doing the right things ourselves but ensuring that others are too."
Meyer-Crothers and his mother spoke to the Republic, saying the Coyotes drafting Miller is "part of the problem."
"Put yourself in our position. Would you be okay with it?" Joni Meyer-Crothers, Isaiah's mother, said. "It's a joke that a sports team, especially with all the stuff going on with Black Lives Matter, would do this."
Meyer-Crothers, also now 18-years old, told the Republic that Miller had taunted him for years growing up, calling him names like "brownie" and the "N-word" while repeatedly hitting him. When he saw the news that Miller had been drafted by the Coyotes, he said it "hurt my heart."
The Coyotes shared a statement from Miller with the Republic, where he apologized for his actions and pledged to "help end bullying and racism."
“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," the statement reads. "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."