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Boston Bruins sign controversial prospect Mitchell Miller to entry-level contract

Bruins sign controversial player who admitted to bullying disabled classmate
Bruins sign controversial player who admitted to bullying disabled classmate 03:13

BOSTON  -- The Boston Bruins are off to an incredible start to the season, but a controversial signing had the franchise doing some serious PR work on Friday. Boston has given a three-year entry-level contract to former Coyotes draft pick Mitchell Miller, whose draft rights were renounced by Arizona following backlash from a 2016 assault conviction for bullying and abusing a Black, developmentally disabled classmate.

Miller was 14 years old when the incident occurred, and the details are extremely disturbing. Miller and another classmate "rubbed a candy push-pop inside a urinal at the school during a girls basketball game and enticed Isaiah Meyer-Crothers to put it in his mouth, nearly falling over with laughter when he did," according to The Athletic. 

Both students were punished by the school, though Miller's punishment was more severe because he repeatedly lied to school administrators about the incident. In a letter to the Coyotes after Miller was drafted, Meyer-Crothers' mother said that the bullying had been going on since the boys were in second grade.

Miller expressed regret over the 2016 incident in a statement that was part of Boston's release to announce the signing on Friday.

"When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely. 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," the statement read. "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."

The victim's mother, Joni Meyers-Crothers, said her son suffered years of abuse at the hands of Miller and only tried to make contact last week.

"Why did he wait a week ago when he knew he was being signed to the Bruins, so he didn't get as much flak this time?" Meyers-Crothers said in an interview with WBZ-TV. "Part of being remorseful is going to the person you hurt and being remorseful." 

Miller practiced with Providence on Friday, and said other teams were looking to sign him. He discussed why he chose to sign with the Bruins.

"I think it's a huge opportunity for me and the Bruins. I'm here to better myself off the ice with community stuff, diversity training, being in the community more," he told reporters, via Matt Porter of The Boston Globe. "The Bruins have offered me a lot to me to be able to follow my path. I think I'll be able to help them on and off the ice."

Boston GM Don Sweeney said Friday that the team is going to hold Miller to a higher standard than other players. The team will have him in a number of educational and community programs, and Sweeney added that Mitchell will have to earn respect -- in and out of the locker room -- for the rest of his life.

"He has to earn the opportunity to play in the NHL as a player, but he has to earn the respect of teammates and really everywhere in society to garner a second chance. With us doing a lot of background work over the course of the last six month, almost a year now, and spending time recently with Mitchell and his family, his acknowledgement of the mistakes he made in eighth grade when he was 14 years old, it's more of what he does now and not ever losing sight of the disrespect he showed to the young man. He has to earn the respect," said Sweeney. "He has to do that every day with his teammates and the people he will interact with everywhere."

"Representing the Boston Bruins is a privilege we take seriously as an organization. Respect and integrity are foundational character traits we expect of our players and staff," Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement. "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 behavior 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," Neely added.

Sweeney said that it was an incredibly difficult decision to sign Miller. While they have not spoken with the victim, Isaiah, the Bruins believe that Miller has grown from his past mistakes. And if there is another slipup, the team will have no problem cutting ties with the player.

"We take Isaiah's side that this happened and the culpability 100 percent lies with Mitchell. He needs to learn for the rest of his life what it means to respect people," Sweeney said.

"People deserve and earn second chances in life, as long as those misgivings are not repeated and they evolve as people," Sweeney added.

The 20-year-old Miller played in 60 games for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL in 2021-22, recording 39 goals and 44 assists for 83 points with a plus-43 rating, earning USHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year honors. A Sylvania, Ohio native, he was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

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