Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The Arizona Coyotes renounced the rights to draft pick Mitchell Miller after learning more about his history of assault and racism as a juvenile, the team announced Thursday.
The Coyotes selected Miller, an 18-year-old defenseman who committed to play at the University of North Dakota next season, in the fourth round of this year's NHL Draft. On Monday, the Arizona Republic published a story exposing Miller's bullying of Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black classmate with developmental disabilities in Sylvania, Ohio.
"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," Meyer-Crothers told the newspaper.
The Coyotes initially stood by the pick, with team president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez saying the organization felt a responsibility to be "part of the solution" for Miller, who now becomes a free agent.
"Prior to selecting Mitchell in the NHL Draft, we were aware that a bullying incident took place in 2016," Gutierrez said in a statement Thursday. "We do not condone this type of behavior 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."
Miller admitted to the assault and bullying of Meyer-Crothers in an Ohio juvenile court four years ago. According to a police report, he also directed racial slurs at Meyer-Crothers.
After the Arizona Republic story was published, Miller issued a statement through the Coyotes. In the statement, Miller didn't directly apologize to Meyer-Crothers, who said he has never previously received an apology from Miller.
"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," Miller said.
As of now, Miller is still expected to join the North Dakota hockey program next season.