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Mitchell Miller signing blowing up on Bruins

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The Bruins have a fine mess on their hands.

The fallout from the team’s signing of prospect Mitchell Miller continued on Saturday — inside their own dressing room, throughout their fandom and elsewhere.

The B’s on Friday signed the 20-year-old defenseman who was convicted in an Ohio juvenile court of bullying a developmentally delayed classmate named Isaiah Meyer-Crothers after a troubling pattern of behavior that included surreptitiously putting a lollipop in a urinal and giving it to a schoolmate to lick.

On Saturday, Bruins’ players expressed their major misgivings about the signing while the victims reiterated her anger of the situation.

And it could be for a player that may never see the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman said he had no knowledge of the B’s signing the player, even though there were several teams in the hunt for his services, and that Mitchell would have to clear the league’s as-yet-unspecified hurdle to play in the NHL, should he be deemed worthy from a hockey perspective.

“What I understand and what I have heard through the media, what he did as a 14-year-old is reprehensible, unacceptable,” Bettman told reporters in Finland, where the league is staging games. “Before the Bruins made the decision to sign him, we were not consulted. I happened to talk to Cam Neely since the time that he was signed. He’s not coming into the NHL. He’s not eligible, at this point, to come into the NHL. I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to come into the NHL. If, in fact, at some point, they think they want him to play in the NHL – and I’m not sure that they’re anywhere close to that point – we’re going to have to clear him and his eligibility and it’ll be based on all the information we get firsthand at the time. So the answer is, they were free to sign him to play somewhere else, that’s another league’s issue. But nobody should think that, at this point, he is may or may ever be NHL-eligible. And the Bruins understand that.”

Whether he’s able to suit up for the Providence Bruins is also up in the air. The AHL has also yet to clear him to play.

Team captain Patrice Bergeron, who learned of the prospective signing about a week ago, said he hoped that there was some “growth” in Miller. But he made it sound like Miller would have a long way to go before he ever accepted into the Bruins’ locker room.

“The culture we built here goes against that type of behavior. We’re a team built with character and character people. What he did is unacceptable and we don’t stand by that. In this locker room, we are all about inclusion, diversity, respect,” Bergeron told reporters after the team’s morning skate in Toronto.

“Those are key words and core values that we have. We expect guys who wear this jersey to be high character people with integrity and respect. Hopefully there is growth and change. If it’s the same 14-year-old walking into this locker room, he would not be accepted and wanted and welcomed. Our culture is not going to change. It’s something that I’m proud of. We don’t need to change. The changes are from the individual himself.”

Another vocal leader, Nick Foligno, expressed similar sentiments.

“It’s tough. It’s a hard topic. The organization is not going to do something that that would jeopardize (the team’s culture). But in saying that, it’s not something that anyone in this room stands for,” said Foligno. “It was a tough thing to hear for our group. I’m not going to lie to you. I don’t think any guy was too happy because of how proud we are to say this is a group that cares a lot about ourselves and how we carry ourselves and how we treat people.”

Miller was convicted of bullying Meyer-Crothers when he was 14, but the victim’s mother, Joni Meyer-Crothers, in a conversation with Herald, wanted to reiterate that it was not just one incident or mistake but a pattern of bullying that went on from kindergarten to 10th grade, when she said Miller stared down her son at a football game while he had a restraining order against him.

She also feels that any remorse he has shown to this point has been simply expedient.

“Mitchell’s had how many years to apologize to Isaiah and he hasn’t. He snap-chatted him a week and a half ago when he was told by (GM Don) Sweeney that he had to apologize or that they wouldn’t sign him. If you’re given that option, what do you think the person would do? Was that really a heartfelt apology?” said Meyer-Crothers, who has four adopted children (including Isaiah) and three biological children. “I can respect them saying they want to rehabilitate Mitchell and they want to make him a better person, but I haven’t heard one thing out of their mouths saying, ‘How can we help Isaiah?’ What kind of counseling does Isaiah need?’ What can we do to help Isaiah?’ It’s all about Mitchell. That’s where my problem is. You made him apologize to sign a contract. That’s not a heartfelt apology. And if you research bullying and their victims, this is something that they’re scarred for life with. He’s already behind the 8-ball to begin with because of being drug- and alcohol-exposed, being cognitively behind. It’s a daily struggle. There are a few people in our community who want to say Isaiah’s a punk. What I said to that is being abused for 10 years at the hands of Mitchell, that’s kind of a hard thing to swallow and comprehend as a kid.”

Meyer-Crothers said the bullying, which included physical violence and racial slurs, went on for 10 years. Is there a way for Miller to make I right at this point, she was asked?

“We’re not unreasonable people. We’re not an unreasonable family. We’re a very spiritual family. We’re a very loving family,” she said. “But the things that were done to Isaiah deserve a remorseful apology, which we can’t force Mitchell to make. We’ve told Isaiah we have to move on and pray that Mitchell some day understands the magnitude of what he did. But the other kid (involved in the lollipop incident), he had a restraining order, too, and he still came to our house and apologized. And we accepted that apology, because it was heartfelt. That’s what I want people to understand. I know there are two sides to this and people are saying that the family is unforgiving and the family is unreasonable. But people need to put themselves in our position. And from kindergarten to 10th grade, on a daily basis – and it wasn’t a one-time incident – he was called the N-word. Our son was cognitively way behind, he wanted friends, that’s all he wanted. Mitchell was a popular kid. (Isaiah), he was an easy target.”

 

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