The Arizona Coyotes have renounced the rights to top 2020 draft pick Mitchell Miller.
The news comes three days after a story published by Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero of The Arizona Republic revealed that Miller and another teen were charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act for bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black classmate with developmental disabilities in 2016.
The Coyotes, who selected Miller in the fourth round (111th overall) of the draft on Oct. 7, responded to the report with a statement from team president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez saying that would work with Miller “to confront bullying and racism.”
The franchise changed direction on Thursday.
"We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately," said Gutierrez 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 behaviour 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."
According to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger, the Coyotes informed Miller, currently a defenceman for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, and his family of the decision earlier Thursday.
"I fully support our decision to renounce Mitchell Miller's draft rights," Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said in a statement. "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."