The Arizona Coyotes don't plan to distance themselves from Mitchell Miller, their 2020 draft pick who the club selected despite knowing he bullied a Black, developmentally disabled classmate.
"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," Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said in a statement, according to Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero of the Arizona Republic.
"When we first learned of Mitchell’s story, it would have been easy for us to dismiss him - many teams did," Gutierrez continued. "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."
Miller, who the Coyotes picked in the fourth round earlier in October, admitted in court in 2016 that he bullied Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who grew up with him in Ohio. Meyer-Crothers said Miller frequently called him the N-word and "brownie," while harassing him for years.
"He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn't want to do," Meyer-Crothers told Harris and Romero. "In junior high, I got beat up by him. … Everyone thinks he's so cool that he gets to go to the NHL, but I don't see how someone can be cool when you pick on someone and bully someone your entire life."
Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong, who got the job before the draft but didn't take part as a condition of his hiring, confirmed Arizona's scouts knew about Miller's bullying history.
Gutierrez said the organization has made its expectations "very clear" to Miller, and they want him to become a leader in the anti-bullying and anti-racism movements.
Meyer-Crothers' mother Joni called on the team to apologize and accused it of being "part of the problem." Miller has never personally apologized to Isaiah aside from a court-mandated letter.
In early September, the NHL launched a series of anti-racism initiatives, and Gutierrez was among 15 people named to the new Executive Inclusion Council. The Hockey Diversity Alliance - a group of current and former NHL players aiming to eradicate racism in the game - initially had conversations with the league but cut ties in early October, describing the NHL's anti-racism work as "performative public relations efforts."