The Bruins signed 20-year-old defenseman Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract on Friday, offering a second chance to a player who admitted to bullying and racial abuse of a peer six years ago, when both were in middle school.
Late Sunday, the team cut ties with Miller. On Monday morning, team president Cam Neely apologized.
“We dropped the ball,” Neely said, “and I’m here to apologize for that.” (See more takeaways here.)
Here’s what we know about the situation.
Who is Mitchell Miller?
Miller is a defenseman who will turn 21 in December. He grew up in Sylvana, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. An unrestricted free agent, Miller signed a three-year entry level contract with the Bruins, which means he would have earned a payout north of $530,000 for the duration of his contract even if he never played for the big-league club.
Miller was assigned to the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affiliate. He joined the team on Friday and the Bruins said they would “cut ties” on Sunday night.
What is Miller accused of doing?
Miller admitted in a juvenile court in Ohio that he assaulted, bullied, and racially abused a Black developmentally disabled classmate in eighth grade.
The information came to light after the Arizona Coyotes drafted Miller with the 111th pick of the 2020 draft, which was held in October of that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Extensive reporting by the Arizona Republic says Miller was charged with a violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act in February 2016 after he and another student admitted to bullying fellow student Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.
Part of that bullying, which occurred in 2014, included wiping a candy push pop in a urinal and tricking Meyer-Crothers into consuming it. The victim reportedly had tests for hepatitis, STDs, and HIV, which came back negative.
Meyer-Crothers also told the Arizona Republic that Miller had taunted him for years growing up and called him names like “brownie” and used the N-word while physically abusing him.
When did those details come out? What happened after they did?
The Arizona Republic’s story came out two weeks after the draft. Miller had been graded to go much higher in the draft, but teams were reportedly worried about the legal issues.
After the Republic’s reporting, the Coyotes dropped Miller and renounced his draft rights.
Miller was planning to play college hockey at the University of North Dakota. UND rescinded his enrollment.
What has Miller been doing on the ice since he was dropped by the Coyotes?
Miller left hockey for a year. He then spent the 2021-22 season in Kearney, Neb., with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL.
He won the league’s Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year awards, as voted by its general managers.
In 60 games, Mitchell put up 39 goals and 44 assists for 83 points.
Why would the Bruins sign him?
At 10-2-0, the Bruins lead the league with 20 points and are averaging a league-best 4.17 goals per game. In short, they are the NHL’s hottest team. So the signing comes at a strange time.
Miller, 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, will need to train for some time before he is added to a game roster anywhere in the Bruins organization. But the signing shows they see real upside.
General manager Don Sweeney said Friday the Bruins could have taken a much easier path by walking away from Miller, whom he described as a “tremendous offensive player” who has pro-quality skills.
“He has to earn the opportunity to play in the NHL as a player,” Sweeney said. “I think more importantly, has to earn the respect of teammates, and really everywhere in society, to garner a second chance.”
Sweeney said the Bruins spent six months investigating Miller’s background. They spent time with Miller and his family.
The Bruins signed Miller in part because other teams felt they could do the same.
Speaking in Providence, Miller said “a couple” teams were interested. A source familiar with what he said was a monthlong negotiation of Miller’s contract said Saturday that five clubs also had offers on the table for the defenseman’s services.
Miller said the Bruins offered him the best “resources,” after he sat down with management and “opened up about what I did and want to do moving forward.”
Why did the Bruins cut ties with Miller?
The signing, which immediately set off a firestorm among many fans and media members, finally was renounced by Cam Neely on Sunday night, who cast a contrite tone in the news release and in a press conference on Monday morning.
“Based on new information, we believe it is the best decision at this time to rescind the opportunity for Mitchell Miller to represent the Boston Bruins,” the release quoted Neely. “We hope that he continues to work with professionals and programs to further his education and personal growth.
“We owe it to our fans, players, staff, partners and community to make sure that our practices and protocols are in keeping with the ethos that we demand from ourselves and as an organization. As such, we will be reevaluating our internal processes for vetting individuals who wish to earn the privilege of playing in the National Hockey League for the Boston Bruins.”
On Monday morning, Neely took questions from the media. He called it his biggest regret as a Bruins executive, and said the franchise made significant mistakes in the vetting and signing of Miller.
Chief among them: “We didn’t talk to the family,” Neely said, referring to Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, the Black developmentally disabled classmate Miller bullied for several years.
“We dropped the ball,” Neely said, “and I’m here to apologize for that.”
Was Miller facing eligibility issues?
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday that he informed Neely that Miller has not been granted the right to play in the league.
“Before the Bruins made the decision to sign him, we were not consulted,” Bettman said, according to The Athletic. “I happened to talk to Cam Neely since the time he was signed.”
Bettman also said that Miller is “not coming to the NHL and he’s not eligible at this point to come into the NHL.”
Neely said on Monday that he was under the impression that Miller would need to speak directly to commissioner Gary Bettman in order to be cleared to play in the NHL.
What has Miller had to say about this?
Miller issued a statement through the Bruins when his signing was announced.
“When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely,” he said. “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.”
Miller’s statement said he 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.”
His statement went on to reiterate that his actions were “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.”
What do Bruins players think about this?
Captain Patrice Bergeron said he was consulted by the Bruins.
“I was asked by Don, close to a week ago, he asked for my opinion,” Bergeron said Saturday. “I had my concerns. I shared my opinion. In a way, I think I was not necessarily agreeing with it — to be honest with you, I think the culture that we’ve built here goes against that type of behavior. I think we are a team built on character and with character individuals. What he did, obviously is unacceptable. We don’t stand by that.”
Bergeron said he would want evidence of “growth and change” from Miller before he entered the room.
“Truthfully, if it’s the same 14-year-old that would be walking into this locker room,” said Bergeron, “he wouldn’t be accepted and wanted and welcomed, to be honest with you.”
Bergeron said he addressed the team on Saturday but would not reveal what the conversation was like.
Nick Foligno, a veteran forward who was once the captain of the Blue Jackets, said it’s a “really hard topic.
“I think first and foremost, the organization is not going to do something that is going to jeopardize [the culture]. But in saying that, it’s not something anyone in this room stands for. The culture we’ve built, and these guys built before I got here, is one of inclusion and I think it goes against that.”
Foligno said he understood Miller was age 14 when he committed his transgressions, which included brutal hazing episodes.
“But it’s hard for us to swallow,“ added Foligno, “because we take a lot of pride in here in the way we act, the way we carry ourselves, what it is to be a Bruin.”
Brad Marchand, another Bruins veteran, was asked if the signing placed a burden on other folks in the room.
“I guess how I’d answer that is, again, if a kid’s going to be part of this room, we have a standard that we hold our teammates to to be in this room, and if we don’t feel like he’s there, then he will not be here,” Marchand told the Globe. “Like anybody, if there’s a guy that comes in and he’s not fitting in, he’s gone. We’ve shown that year after year. I understand where it all comes from, but again, if he ever makes it here, it will be because he’s shown that he’s learned and come the distance he needs to — a lot comes with this, a lot of backlash and media attention that the team’s going through.
“Like I said, he’s got a lot of work to do. It’s a second chance he’s been gifted and he’ll have to show that he’s earned it. He’s got a long, long road ahead of him.”
Who is Miller’s agent?
Miller is represented by Eustace King, a longtime agent and one of the only Black agents in the NHL.
In a statement King released Sunday, he said O2K Sports Management, which is based in Chicago, “would not have agreed to represent Mitchell without months of research, deliberation, introspection within our organization, and conversations with outside advisors.”
King also named four organizations that Mitchell has reportedly been volunteering with for “the last six years” — since the incidents.
November 6, 2022
“We believe in restorative justice,” King wrote. “Mitchell and I are on that path together, and I welcome you all to join us.”
Read more about the topic
- Read Cam Neely’s statement on the Bruins’ decision to cut ties with Mitchell Miller
- Tara Sullivan: Bruins’ justifications for signing Mitchell Miller are not convincing
- Bruins sign Mitchell Miller, who admitted to bullying, racial abuse of a developmentally disabled peer
- Commissioner Gary Bettman has informed Bruins that Mitchell Miller has not been granted the right to play in the NHL
- ‘I was on the fence’: Patrice Bergeron says he was consulted before Bruins signed abuser Mitchell Miller
- Signing of Mitchell Miller difficult for many Bruins to comprehend
- Mitchell Miller’s agent releases statement after Bruins’ controversial signing
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