On Friday, the Boston Bruins announced they had signed defenceman Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract. This decision caused an immediate uproar from around the hockey world due to Miller’s past which includes a conviction for bullying a Black classmate, Isiah Meyer-Crothers, that had developmental disabilities when they were teenagers.
Miller was the Arizona Coyotes’ first pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, taken in the fourth round. Only a little while later, in October 2020, a story broke in Arizona Central
detailing Miller’s alleged involvement in bullying this classmate.
The report detailed many horrendous events including the repeated use of racial slurs by Miller directed at Meyer-Crothers. In addition, Miller tricked Meyer-Crothers into licking a candy that had been wiped in a urinal, leading to the victim needing to get tested for a variety of diseases.
Miller and another person were convicted of violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act for this incident in an Ohio Juvenile Court. The punishment included 25 hours of community service, forced counseling, and an apology to Meyer-Crothers.
However, Meyer-Crothers and his mother continue to state that they have not received any direct apology from Miller. They also claim that the bullying was far from just a single isolated incident, instead stretching across the course of many years, a story that has been repeated by others close to the situation.
When this story initially came to light, the Arizona Coyotes initially stood behind their draft pick.
“We believe that we are in the best position to guide Mitchell into becoming a leader for this cause and preventing bullying and racism now and in the future,” Coyotes CEO and president Xavier Gutierrez said.
However, the Coyotes would then change course and renounce their rights to Miller only a few days later as public pressure mounted.
“We have learned more about the entire matter, and more importantly, the impact that it had on Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. What we learned does not align with the core values of our organization,” Gutierrez said in a public apology to the Meyer-Crothers family.
This left Miller as a free agent without an NHL team. Since then, he’s played with the Tri-City Storm in the USHL.
The Boston Bruins make shocking a decision
The Boston Bruins sent the hockey world into a shocked frenzy when they announced that they had come to terms with Miller on a contract. By signing Miller to an entry-level contract, the Bruins were offering the human behind those horrid decisions a special opportunity to play professional hockey.
“We feel that there’s an opportunity for a young man to have a career as a result – despite, I should say – a very misguided and immature decision back when he was in the eighth grade,” said Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins.
It has since been revealed that the Bruins organization decided not to consult the victim, the victim’s family, or the NHL before making its decision. From the reactions of the players on the current roster, it seems obvious that the Bruins didn’t take their feelings into account either.
Many of the Bruins have been interviewed about their thoughts on the subject and been forced to answer for a decision that was made above their heads.
“The culture we’ve built and these guys have built before I got here is one of inclusion,” veteran forward Nick Foligno said. “I think it goes against that. I understand he was 14 when he made this mistake. But it’s hard for us to swallow because we take a lot of pride in here in the way we act, the way we carry ourselves, and what it is to be a Bruin. So that was a tough thing to hear for our group.
“This comes down to morals. [Patrice Bergeron is] a guy that’s always stood by his morals. I don’t think he’s happy, obviously. None of us are, really, with the situation. At the same token, it’s the reality that we’re faced with, whether we wanted it or not.”
The Bruins’ dedicated WAG (Wives and Girlfriends) Instagram account also got in on the discussion, reposting a story with the caption “disgusting signing”.
Miller’s NHL Future
Of course, it hasn’t only been people inside the Bruins’ organization that have had strong reactions to the news. There has been consistent outrage from every corner of the hockey world. This has been aided by the strength of Isaiah Meyer-Crothers’ mother who has continued to speak openly about the issue and call out the Bruins on their decision, as well as expose more of the truth.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s a monster,” Joni Meyer-Crothers told
“He told our son that his Black mom and dad didn’t love him, and that’s why he had white parents. On a daily basis, [Isaiah] was called the N-word. He would ask Isaiah to sit with him on the bus, and as soon as Isaiah would sit with him, he and his friends would just punch Isaiah in the head nonstop.”
Meyer-Crothers’ continued strength to speak up has helped show the world Miller’s lack of remorse as she says that there has yet to be a proper attempt at an apology past some performative actions on social media.
All of this has put the spotlight on Gary Bettman and brought up the question of how the league would handle the situation. To Bettman and the NHL’s credit, they’ve taken a fairly strong stance on the issue thus far, repeating the fact that Miller is not eligible to play in the NHL.
“He’s not coming into the NHL. He’s not eligible at this point to come into the NHL. I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to come into the NHL. If in fact at some point they think they want him to play in the NHL, I’m not sure they’re anywhere close to that point, we’re going to have to clear him and his eligibility,” Bettman told The Athletic.
On Saturday morning, Joni Meyer-Crothers expressed that she was thankful for the support from the Bruins’ players and around the league. However, when it comes to Don Sweeney, she rightfully has a much different attitude.
“No, I wouldn’t want to speak to him. No. He made it known it didn’t really matter what we had to say.”
Playing in the NHL must remain a privilege, not a right. The lifestyle and opportunity afforded by the NHL should not be handed out to anyone and everyone. The Bruins crossed a line by affording Miller an NHL contract and it’s a good thing that the rest of the hockey world has stepped up to hold them accountable.