BOSTON — The Bruins decided Sunday to rescind their contract offer to the prospect Mitchell Miller, who was drafted in 2020 but had his draft rights relinquished amid backlash due to Miller’s admission in court to bullying a classmate with a developmental disability while using racist language in middle school.
Boston signed Miller, a 20-year-old defenseman, to an entry-level contract Friday, prompting criticism from players and comments from N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman that Miller wouldn’t currently be eligible to play within the league.
Cam Neely, the Bruins’ team president, said in an announcement on Sunday that the team thought Miller’s bullying of the coed was an isolated incident but reversed course on signing Miller based on latest information.
“We owe it to our fans, players, staff, partners and community to be sure that that our practices and protocols are consistent with the ethos that we demand from ourselves and as a corporation,” Neely said. “As such, we will likely be reevaluating our internal processes for vetting individuals who want to earn the privilege of playing within the National Hockey League for the Boston Bruins.”
Earlier Sunday, the agent Eustace King released an announcement saying O2K Sports Management took part in serious deliberation before deciding to represent Miller. The statement said Miller was working with and volunteering for organizations and was committed to changing his ways. King didn’t immediately reply to a message Sunday night searching for comment on the Bruins’ decision.
Signing Miller didn’t go over well with Boston players, from the captain Patrice Bergeron down. Bergeron said he was consulted concerning the possibility and was “on the fence.”
“The culture that we built here goes against that sort of behavior,” said Bergeron, who’s in his nineteenth season, all with Boston. “On this locker room, we’re all about inclusion, diversity, respect.”
The veteran forward Nick Foligno called the signing “hard to swallow.”
“Tough thing to listen to for our group,” he said. “I’m not gonna misinform you. I don’t think any guy was too comfortable.”
The Arizona Coyotes picked Miller within the fourth round of the 2020 draft despite knowing of his 2016 conviction in a juvenile-court case. The team parted ways with Miller amid criticism after learning more concerning the bullying.
The University of North Dakota announced a day later that Miller would now not be allowed to play with the college’s hockey team.
Miller pleaded guilty at age 14 to 1 count of assault and one count of violating of the Ohio Secure Schools Act. He and one other teenager were accused of constructing a classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, eat a candy push pop after wiping it in a toilet urinal, and surveillance video showed them kicking and punching him.
Meyer-Crothers’s mother, Joni, told The Arizona Republic that Miller, who’s white, began the bullying in second grade and used racial epithets against her son, who’s Black.
Miller sent a letter to all 31 N.H.L. teams — Seattle would enter the league the subsequent season — acknowledging what happened and apologizing for his behavior. Joni Meyer-Crothers said on the time that Miller never personally apologized to Isaiah or their family aside from through a court-mandated letter.
“Once I was in eighth grade, I made a particularly poor decision and acted very immaturely,” Miller said in an announcement after Boston initially signed him. “I bullied certainly one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the person. For the reason that incident, I actually have come to higher understand the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to acknowledge and understand nearly seven years ago.”
Miller sat out the 2020-21 season before scoring 39 goals with 44 assists for Tri-City of the US Hockey League, a junior league, in 2021-22. He was named the usH.L.’s player and defenseman of the 12 months after setting league records for goals and points by a defenseman.
“We’re sorry that this decision has overshadowed the incredible work the members of our organization do to support diversity and inclusion efforts,” Neely said, offering his apology to Meyer-Crothers and his family and saying the team stands against bullying and racism. “I believe there’s a lesson to be learned here for other young people. Be mindful of careless behaviors and going with the group mentality of injuring others. The repercussions may be felt for a lifetime.”