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Bullying victim says Mitchell Miller reached out to him before signing now-rescinded NHL contract

Isaiah Meyer-Crothers said player sent daily text messages, outlines pattern of abuse in statement released by the Hockey Diversity Alliance. His statement is in contrast to how Miller's agent categorized the current relationship between Miller and Meyer-Crothers.

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Mitchell Miller was a Arizona Coyotes draft pick and University of North Dakota signee before his hockey career derailed after reports of his bullying-related activity in 2016. The victim of his bullying released a statement Wednesday, Nov. 9, outlining the pattern of bullying and recent contact between the two.
The Rink Live photo illustration

The bullying victim of a once highly-sought hockey recruit says the abuse he endured daily "hurts my heart” and the two are not friends, despite the player’s portrayal that he is different now and the two have a mutual friendship.

Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, in a statement tweeted Wednesday, Nov. 9 by the Hockey Diversity Alliance , said he was bullied by Mitchell Miller since the first grade. He outlined years of bullying by Mitchell during their school years, including the directed use of racial slurs and other actions toward him.

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The NHL has retained former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to lead a team of lawyers from the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an independent review of the team’s process.

“Mitchell used to ask me to sit with him on the bus and then he and his friends would punch me in the head. This happened my whole time in school,” the statement by Meyer-Crothers said.

The statement comes days after the Boston Bruins became the second NHL team to sever ties with Miller. Boston Bruins president Cam Neely said last week’s signing of Miller was his biggest regret as an NHL executive and backlash directed the team to cut ties with him.

Recent developments, including Meyer-Crothers’ statement, call into question Miller’s re-emergence as a top NHL prospect.

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The Bruins signed Miller on Friday, Nov. 4, but that weekend, league commissioner Gary Bettman said Miller was “not eligible at this point to come into the NHL.” In published reports , the team's decision to pursue Miller did not go over well with the Bruins players.

Miller, from Sylvania, Ohio, was selected in the fourth-round of the NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020 and was set to join the University of North Dakota hockey team. However, prior to Miller playing for the Fighting Hawks, a report surfaced detailing bullying incidents beginning back in elementary school and a subsequent court case against Miller came to light. UND administration then removed Miller from its hockey team and the Coyotes renounced his rights.

Miller, who turns 21 on Dec. 20, played in the USHL, beginning in 2018 with Cedar Rapids. After not playing during the 2020-21 season, he returned to the league and won Player and Defenseman of the Year honors for the 2021-22 season with the Tri-City Storm, awards that were strongly criticized across social media.

The abuse

In his statement, Meyer-Crothers outlined some of the abuse he endured as a target of Miller’s behavior.

“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,” the statement by Meyer-Crothers said.

Miller admitted to bullying Meyer-Crothers, who is Black and has developmental disabilities, during court proceedings in 2016 when Miller pleaded guilty on charges of assault and violating a safe schools act in Ohio.

Meyer-Crothers said at various points in his statement that Miller attempted to befriend him, most recently in October, when Meyer-Crothers said he received text messages from Miller daily until he replied.

“He told me he was sorry and [that the apology] didn’t involve hockey,” Meyer-Crothers said in his statement. “He told me he was doing stuff in the community and helping the youth and wanted to be my friend. I told him, ‘That’s all cool but where is the proof though?’ He didn’t give me any [proof].

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"All the lies I have been told from him for so many years I don't believe what Mitchell told me. He kept asking me to be his friend and that he has changed over the years from what he did. I told him, 'I'm not just gonna be your friend after all you did to me.'"

The vetting process

Miller’s agent Eustace King outlined Monday, Nov. 7, on “ The Cam & Strick Podcast " why he represented Miller after digging into his past. He also provided a timeline of recent communication between Miller and Meyer-Crothers. His version of the relationship between Miller and Meyer-Crothers was in stark contrast to the Meyer-Crothers statement.

“They've been in communication for probably the last 30 days or so," King said on the show. "And, well via social media. It was via text messaging, and then ultimately, it became via a phone call. And during that time, what I was finding was, is that Mitchell and Isaiah were going through their own healing process, and you know, not to put their stuff out, but I would say that came back from my discussions with Mitchell, is that Isaiah had originally friended him on social media.”

King, a managing partner and co-founder of O2K Sports Management, said during the podcast that it was important for Miller to talk with Meyer-Crothers before he signed his NHL contract.

All the lies I have been told from him for so many years I don't believe what Mitchell told me. He kept asking me to be his friend and that he has changed over the years from what he did. I told him, 'I'm not just gonna be your friend after all you did to me.'
Isaiah Meyer-Crothers

“He wanted to be sure, and they spoke on the phone, that he had Isaiah’s blessing. And Isaiah said what I said before, ‘You're going to be big time. You know guys are gonna look over you and you need to continue to do the work that we talked about.' And they talked about even working together. And I want to say that again, they talked about telling their story together.”

On Sunday, the Bruins cut ties with Miller, leaving the team's brass rethinking their vetting process. Miller had signed a three-year, entry-level contract worth $2.85 million according to Spotrac .

“The fact that we didn’t talk to the (victim’s) family was disconcerting to me,” Neely said in a story published in the Boston Herald.

SPORTS-CAM-NEELY-REACHES-OUT-VICTIMS-1-YB.jpg
Boston Bruins president Cam Neely speaks to the media after Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston on Oct. 10, 2022. On Monday, he talked about the decision to rescind the contract of prospect Mitchell Miller.
Reba Saldanha / TNS

Neely said no one in the organization had reached out to the family. It was then Joni Meyer-Crothers told the Boston newspaper that she would be “happy to speak with (Neely).”

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“I felt that he was remorseful, I thought that he had changed, I felt that at the time, a second chance was warranted,” Neely told the Boston Herald.

King explained on “The Cam & Strick Podcast” that he dug into the player’s background and his agency wanted to help him get a second chance.

“I did a lot of research and deliberated over things,” King said on the podcast. “I talked to different advisers and friends and colleagues in the National Hockey League and industry of people who are not in the industry. People are just business folks. I talked with our group, I've talked with our board and ultimately based on all the information that we're able to gather, which probably took a good 30 to 45 days, we decided that we were going to try and help this young man because we believed in giving kids a second chance.”

King said Miller did community service work, spent time going to elementary schools and discussing anti-bullying, working with the homeless and the elderly.

“And he began this process — and he was doing that and this was not mandated. This was stuff that was done on his own accord and with the supervision of the team,” King said.

King said he wanted to make it clear that his agency and himself do not condone what Miller did as a teen. He also stressed that when Miller’s name resurfaces in news reports, so does the name of Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.

“I feel terribly for Isaiah, who was the victim, because of the fact that he has to relive this all over again,” King said on the podcast. “The challenge is, every time something happens with Mitchell it triggers Isaiah and vice versa. They're in lockstep together. And that is something ultimately for me, that has to change, because this narrative is always extremely, extremely negative.”

Meyer-Crothers, in his statement, went on to say he has since received derogatory messages from others on social media and that he and Mitchell are not friends, despite what others say.

"It hurts my heart what he did to me."

This story has been updated to correct the day Boston announced it would cut ties with Miller.

Rob Beer is the digital content manager for Forum Communications. A journalist with Forum Communications since 1991, he is the editor of The Rink Live and assists with Northland Outdoors and other content produced by the company.
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