NHL’s Coyotes dismiss draft pick who bullied Black classmate

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SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 06: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman prepares for the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. (NEXSTAR) — The Arizona Coyotes have renounced their rights to their top 2020 draft pick after learning more about his bullying of a Black classmate four years ago.

The team parted ways with Mitchell Miller after taking heat for selecting him in the fourth round earlier this month despite knowing of his 2016 assault conviction.

Arizona acknowledged it knew about the incident when it selected Miller. President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez says discovering more about it and the effect it had on bullying victim Isaiah Meyer-Crothers and his family led to this decision.

“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,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “On behalf of the Arizona Coyotes ownership and our entire organization, I would like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family.”

“Mitchell is a good hockey player, but we need to do the right thing as an organization and not just as a hockey team,” Coyotes’ General Manager Bill Armstrong added in the statement. “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.”

In 2016, Miller admitted to terrorizing Meyer-Crothers, pleading guilty in juvenile court to charges of assault and violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act after he and another teen duped their classmate into licking a candy push pop that was wiped on a bathroom urinal. Meyer-Crothers had to be tested for hepatitis, HIV and STDs, police said.

Surveillance video also showed Miller and another boy punching and kicking Meyer-Crothers.

The Meyer-Crothers family said Miller had bullied Isaiah, who was developmentally four years behind his classmates, for years, calling him the “N-word” and “brownie” – an allegation backed up by classmates, The Arizona Republic reports.

After seeing the news that the Coyotes had drafted Miller, Meyer-Crothers told the paper Monday “It hurt my heart to be honest.”

His mother, Joni Meyer-Crothers, said the Coyotes never contacted them before the draft, adding, “It’s a joke that a sports team, especially with all the stuff going on with Black Lives Matter, would do this.”

She said that Miller never personally apologized to her son outside of a court-mandated letter, but he did contact all 31 NHL teams to inform them about what happened and apologize for his behavior.

Miller becomes an NHL free agent effective immediately.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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