On Wednesday, the Arizona Coyotes announced the team renounced the rights to Mitchell Miller, who pleaded guilty after a series of racist bullying incidents landed him in juvenile court. Miller was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, as the 111th overall pick.
It was reported that when Miller was 18, he was convicted of "bullying" Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a developmentally disabled, Black classmate.
Miller admitted in juvenile court to bullying Meyer-Crothers, tricking him into licking a push pop that he and another wiped on urinal. He also referred to him using racial slurs incluing the "N-word."
Coyotes' President & CEO Xavier Gutierrez said regarding the decision:
"We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately. 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."
Gutierrez said Miller's actions go against what the team stands for.
"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," Gutierrez said.
"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 had no pushback on the decision.
"I fully support our decision to renounce Mitchell Miller's draft rights. 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," Armstrong said.
"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."
These comments ring differently than previous statements from the team, where they said, "Mitchell made a huge mistake, but we are providing him with a second chance to prove himself."
In a year when the league has pledged a commitment to denouncing racism and making a change to ensure everyone feels welcome at games, the decision to draft Miller felt like a step back to many.
The team and their foundation will now look to collaborate with local non-profit organizations that support efforts fighting bullying and racism.