Earlier this week, AZ Central reported details of Arizona Coyotes’ fourth-round pick Mitchell Miller. Four years prior Miller and another student engaged in severe bullying of Isaiah Meyers-Crothers, a Black student with developmental disabilities.
The response to this story was swift. Many, including this site, saw this move running counter to the team's initiatives to oppose racism and bullying. Today the Coyotes announced that they have renounced the rights to Mitchell Miller.
Coyotes officially announce that they have renounced the rights to draft pick Mitchell Miller: pic.twitter.com/gfMgPGJWOJ— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) October 29, 2020
This is an extremely rare move, one that may be unprecedented in hockey. Teams will quietly let a player's rights expire, but I cannot find a situation where a player's rights were renounced, especially coming months after being drafted.
The circumstances surrounding the team's decision to draft Miller are certainly unusual. The team's new General Manager Bill Armstrong was not allowed to be part of the drafting process due to an agreement with his prior team the St. Louis Blues.
While I believe this is the correct move, this still doesn't completely absolve the team. Every team was aware of Miller's past, he had written letters to each team addressing it before the draft. And yet, the Coyotes still drafted him. When the revelations first re-emerged this week, the team was quick to defend their decision to draft Miller.
It should not require a large public backlash to force the team to stand up for the values they have been preaching to us. And while the team's management may feel that the decision to renounce Miller's rights is the morally correct one, it was done for public relations reasons.
I do not believe that this was ever just about the Coyotes. Miller was likely going to be drafted by another team if the Coyotes didn't get to him first. The team's decision to draft Miller is just one example of a larger conversation being had about racism, bullying, and hockey culture.
The team took a good first step in renouncing Miller’s rights, but I think they have a very long way to go to prove that they learned the right lessons from this and that they are not going to allow something like this to happen again.