Some pretty disgusting details regarding the past of this year's top pick in the draft from the Arizona Coyotes has come to light and I must admit I am more than a little torn on this issue. A recent report from Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic has revealed that Mitchell Miller, the player the Coyotes selected 111th overall in the 4th round of the 2020 National Hockey League Entry Draft has a previous conviction for racially and physically abusing a young mentally disabled black boy that he attended school with.
The reason I'm torn here is that both Miller and his victim were just 14 years old at the time the behavior occurred so I struggle to judge a young man harshly on the things he did as a child, however as you will see the things that Miller was convicted of doing are disturbing to say the least.
Miller admitted in Ohio juvenile court that he had bullied a young black and mentally disabled teenager named Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. The fact that Meyer-Crothers is black would be entirely irrelevant to this story were it not for the fact that it appears to have been at least one of the reasons that he was targeted by the young Miller. Meyer-Crothers claims that he was repeatedly called things like "brownie" and the "n-word" by Miller and this has been corroborated by other students at the school who spoke with law enforcement regarding the matter.
That was the verbal abuse. The physical abuse Meyer-Crothers was forced to endure takes this story to the next level. According to the report Miller and another boy wiped a candy push pop in a bathroom urinal at the school and proceeded to trick Meyer-Crothers, who again is mentally disabled, into licking it after they had wiped it in the toilet. Poor Meyer-Crothers then had to be tested for things like hepatitis, HIV and other STDS but thankfully those have come back negative.
The young victim in this case, now 18, has released a statement following the Coyotes decision to draft Miller.
"He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn't want to do," Meyer-Crothers said as per the Republic. "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."
To be clear I don't think Miller should be judged his entire life for the actions he committed as a 14 year old, that would frankly be ridiculous. It appears that Miller himself sent a letter to every team in the NHL prior to the draft admitting what he had done as a young man and showing contrition for his actions, which in and of itself is a good first step towards a road to redemption. It is clear the Coyotes feel he deserves a second chance, and perhaps Miller can one day use his platform to help better the lives of young children who have been the victims of bullying themselves.
I think it has to be said here as well that the Coyotes did not pick until the 4th round as a result of both trades and penalties imposed by the NHL. Miller likely dropped considerably in the draft as a result of this story coming to light, and perhaps the Coyotes felt that they simply could not pass up on his talent given that they had been unable to make a pick in the first 3 rounds.