GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes announced Thursday they have renounced the rights to 2020 4th-round draft pick Mitchell Miller.
Miller was the first pick in the 2020 NHL Draft for the Coyotes on Oct. 7 after the team traded its first and third round picks and lost its second round pick due to NHL violations.
The decision to renounce Miller's rights comes after an Arizona Republic report that Miller was convicted in 2016 for bullying a Black classmate with developmental disabilities.
The Arizona Republic report says Miller admitted in an Ohio juvenile court that he bullied Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, tricking Meyer-Crothers into licking a push pop candy that Miller and another teen wiped in a bathroom urinal.
The police report, according to the Republic, said Meyer-Crothers had to be tested for hepatitis, HIV and STDs, which came back negative.
The Republic also reported Meyer-Crothers, who is now living in Detroit and is also now 18 years old, said Miller taunted him calling him "brownie" and the "N-word" for years while they grew up going to school together in Ohio. The Republic says other students confirmed to police that Miller repeatedly used the "N-word" when referring to Meyer-Crothers.
Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez released the following statement on Thursday, saying the organization was aware of a bullying incident in 2016. Gutierrez apologized to the Meyer-Crothers family.
"We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately," Gutierrez said in a statement. "Prior to selecting Mitchell in the NHL Draft, we were aware that a bullying incident took place in 2016. We do not condone this type of behavior but embraced this as a teachable moment to work with Mitchell to make him accountable for his actions and provide him with an opportunity to be a leader on anti-bullying and anti-racism efforts."
"We have learned more about the entire matter, and more importantly, the impact it has had on Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. 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. On behalf of the Arizona Coyotes ownership and our entire organization, I would like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. We are building a model franchise on and off the ice and will do the right thing for Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family, our fans and our partners. Mr. Miller is now a free agent and can pursue his dream of becoming an NHL player elsewhere."
General Manager Bill Armstrong released a statement Thursday as well, supporting the organization's decision to renounce Miller's draft rights.
"I fully support our decision to renounce Mitchell Miller's draft rights," said Coyotes' General Manager Bill Armstrong. "It was a unique situation for me not being able to participate in this year's Draft and we were going through a transition with our scouting department. Mitchell is a good hockey player, but we need to do the right thing as an organization and not just as a hockey team. 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."
It's been a rocky year for the Arizona Coyotes, despite making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
In August, the NHL announced that the Coyotes were sanctioned for violating the league's NHL Combine testing policy.
The team announced in May it was parting ways with President and CEO Ahron Cohen. Owner Alex Meruelo brought in Gutierrez in June.
In July, General Manager John Chayka resigned his position and the organization expressed its disappointment in the days following:
"Chayka has chosen to quit on a strong and competitive team, a dedicated staff, and the Arizona Coyotes fans, the greatest fans in the NHL," the team said in the press release.
In mid-August, the Coyotes laid off and furloughed a number of staff members due to financial issues caused by the coronavirus.
The Coyotes went 33-29-8 last season.
They were one of the last teams into the expanded playoff format and defeated the Nashville Predators in a series to advance to the next round, where they lost to the Colorado Avalanche in five games.