UND incoming freshman Mitchell Miller addressed Monday incidents of bullying and racism that occurred when he was in eighth grade at McCord Junior High School in Sylvania, Ohio.
According to a report in the Arizona Republic, Miller admitted in juvenile court to tricking an African American classmate, who had developmental disabilities, into licking a candy push pop that had been wiped in a urinal. Video surveillance also showed Miller and two other boys punching and kicking the victim.
The report also says that Miller, who was 14 years old at the time, called the victim racist names and "repeatedly used the N-word."
Miller was kicked out of school and sentenced by the court to 25 hours of community service. He also was sent to counseling and required to write the victim a letter of apology.
Miller, who enrolled at UND this fall, was picked in the fourth round by the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL Draft earlier this month.
The victim, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, told the Republic: "He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn't want to do. In junior high, I got beat up by him. … Everyone thinks he's so cool that he gets to go to the NHL, but I don't see how someone can be cool when you pick on someone and bully someone your entire life."
Miller released a statement through the Coyotes about the incident.
"I am extremely sorry about the bullying incident that occurred in 2016 while I was in eighth grade. I was young, immature and feel terrible about my actions. At the time, I did not understand the gravity of my actions and how they can affect other people. I have issued an apology to the family for my behavior, completed cultural diversity and sensitivity training and volunteered within my community with organizations such as Little Miracles. Over the past four years, I have had a lot of time to reflect and grow and I am very grateful to the Arizona Coyotes for taking a chance on me. I promise not to let them down. Moving forward, I want to be a leader for this cause and help end bullying and racism."
UND coach Brad Berry said in a statement that he was aware of the incident before bringing Miller to campus in August.
“We were aware of an unfortunate incident that occurred with Mitchell in eighth grade," the statement read. "We made a decision that our program could provide him the necessary infrastructure and culture to hone not only his hockey abilities but most importantly, assist him in his continuing growth as a human being which will last him the remainder of his life.”
Prior to the NHL Draft, Miller sent a letter to NHL teams about the incident.
The Herald obtained the letter Monday night through an NHL team.
"When I was 14 and in 8th grade I was involved in a school incident with 2 classmates that involved inappropriate actions, name calling, and racial slurs. At the time, I was not aware of the harm I was causing and being very carless (sic). The incident originally resulted in a 3-day suspension from school and later turned into more severe punishment with my school and even legal charges of assault and safe school / bullying. With embarrassment and remorse, I soon learned the gravity of my words and actions, which were completely wrong and I understand the humility it caused my friend Isaiah and his family. I take full accountability for my actions and I am sorry for the damage I caused. I have extreme regret for my actions and to be very clear, any notion of lacking of remorse or ongoing use of racial slurs is absolutely not true. I have grown and been able to understand how to behave more appropriately, how to treat others and how my actions can affect others.
"I am 18 years old now and there have been no new issues or ongoing issues above and beyond from this incident. I have received individual counseling, completed cultural diversity classes and volunteered with the physically disabled. I have participated in on-going community outreach programs as part of the USHL in Iowa and Nebraska and will continue to volunteer within my community and give back to others in need. My family, coaches, friends and teammates have helped me to mature and become someone who is not defined by this mistake, but has accepted it and now make choices to be a better person than I was when I was a kid. I'm a different person than I was four years ago and I am thankful to have learned a very painful and valuable lesson.
"Sincerely, Mitchell Miller."
The letter contained two attachments. One was a character reference and the other was a cultural diversity letter that was written in 2016.
Miller comes to UND at a time when the country -- and the campus -- is dealing with racism issues in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.
Earlier this summer, two UND volleyball players recorded themselves on video using the "N-word." UND football star linebacker Jaxson Turner called out the school for using one of the volleyball players in a promotional poster. In the wake of that controversy, both players opted to transfer.
UND hockey players, meanwhile, have been discussing ways to advance awareness of race issues and eliminate racism.
Junior forward Jasper Weatherby, who has a Black brother adopted from Costa Rica, has been leading the conversations among the team. Weatherby's grandparents were civil rights lawyers and activists and he has actively worked with the school to pitch ideas on how to combat racism.