Hockey culture has taken another unnecessary step backwards.
The sport has been under heavy scrutiny over the last 12-plus months, and that continued Friday after the Boston Bruins signed defenseman Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract.
In 2016, Miller and another teenager repeatedly referred to classmate Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who is Black and developmentally disabled, with the N-word, forced him to lick a lollipop that had been previously wiped against a bathroom urinal, and were caught on camera kicking and punching him. As a result, Meyer-Crothers had to undergo tests for HIV, hepatitis, and various other sexually transmitted diseases. Miller was convicted in juvenile court, pleading guilty to one count of assault and one count of violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act.
As part of Friday's announcement, Miller issued a statement regarding his disturbing actions.
"When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely," Miller said. "I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the individual. Since the incident, I have come to better understand the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to recognize and understand nearly seven years ago. I strive to be a better person and positively contribute to society.
“As a member of the Bruins organization, I will continue to participate in community programs to both educate myself and share my mistakes with others to show what a negative impact those actions can have on others. To be clear, what I did when I was 14 years old was wrong and unacceptable. There is no place in this world for being disrespectful to others and I pledge to use this opportunity to speak out against mistreating others."
Bruins president Cam Neely also provided his thoughts in the press release, explaining the decision behind signing Miller.
"Representing the Boston Bruins is a privilege we take seriously as an organization," Neely said. "Respect and integrity are foundational character traits we expect of our players and staff. Prior to signing Mitchell, our Hockey Operations and Community Relations groups spent time with him over the last few weeks to better understand who he is as an individual and learn more about a significant mistake he made when he was in middle school.
“During this evaluation period, Mitchell was accountable for his unacceptable behaviour and demonstrated his commitment to work with multiple organizations and professionals to further his education and use his mistake as a teachable moment for others. The expectation is that he will continue this important educational work with personal development and community programs as a member of the Bruins organization."
Did anyone from hockey ops or community relations reach out to the victim ? Reached out to his family?
Hockey is a privilege?
Making a black disabled human lick a lollipop that was wiped in a urinal isn’t a mistake.
— Joel Ward (@JRandalWard42) November 4, 2022
Miller, a fourth-round selection by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020, was renounced by the team shortly after his conviction of bullying and abusing Meyer-Crothers four years prior went public.
The 20-year-old sent letters to all 31 NHL teams prior to the draft, explaining his side of the story, but the Coyotes still decided to select him. He also didn’t acknowledge Meyer-Crothers in his initial statement after being released.
"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," Miller said.
Upon learning of this news, the University of North Dakota also cut ties with Miller a day later, saying he would “no longer be a member of the UND Men’s Hockey program.”
The 5-foot-10 defenseman did eventually land in the USHL, playing four seasons with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and Tri-City Storm from 2018-22. He scored 51 goals and 133 points across 154 career games and was named the USHL Player and Defenseman of the Year this past May.
Miller will report to Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins.
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