Bruins’ Mitchell Miller signing ‘stunned’ bullying victim’s family — mother says son ‘not doing well’ after the news

TORONTO — On Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Nick Foligno made it clear they do not endorse their employer’s signing of Mitchell Miller. Joni Meyer-Crothers, mother of Isaiah, the victim of Miller’s bullying and racist comments, heard those statements.

“I was very impressed with what they said. Extremely impressed,” Meyer-Crothers told The Athletic. “That definitely gave us comfort.”

It was a breath of relief in what Meyer-Crothers termed a whirlwind since the Bruins signed Miller to an NHL entry-level contract on Friday. She never believed the day would come.

“We were totally blindsided,” said Meyer-Crothers of herself, husband Jamie Crothers and her family. “I never thought an NHL team would sign him. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that. I was just stunned.”

Meyer-Crothers read the Bruins’ press release. She saw how general manager Don Sweeney explained the signing. Sweeney noted how Miller’s offensive style gave him NHL potential.

“It’s sad in that Mitchell and his family think his career trumps being a good person? That’s kind of the message the Bruins are sending out too — that talent trumps what you do,” said Meyer-Crothers. “I can’t say it enough. We want Mitchell to get the help that he needs. Because he needs help, too. So we’re not against that, at all. But it’s a privilege to play hockey. Maybe he should have been rehabilitated, and then re-focused and re-looked at to play hockey after he truly was rehabilitated and understood the magnitude of what he’s done to our son.”

As much as Meyer-Crothers appreciated what the Bruins’ players said, she has not heard directly from anybody from the Bruins, either before or after the signing. (The Athletic reached out to the Bruins for comment on this without response.)

If she had heard from them, Meyer-Crothers said she would have described how Isaiah and her family are still dealing with the aftermath of Miller’s repeated mistreatment. She described Isaiah as “not doing well at all” following Friday’s news of Miller’s signing.

“Every time this is brought up, it puts him right back to where he was,” said Meyer-Crothers of her adopted son. “To sit at the table with Mitchell in seventh grade, he had to say he was his N-word, or he had to sit by himself at the lunch room. It’s all this stuff that keeps replaying in his mind all the time. That he’s not of value. That his life doesn’t matter. He was told his Black mom and dad didn’t love him; that’s why he has White parents. Imagine the identity problems that Isaiah’s dealing with.

“He was already behind the eight-ball because he had fetal alcohol syndrome and drug exposure. So cognitively, he’s already behind. Then you’re adding this stuff on to a kid that just wants to have friends. Because he already knows he’s not functioning like the other kids. He was tormented. That’s where I’m struggling.”

After hearing Bergeron, Marchand and Foligno speak, Meyer-Crothers said she would welcome the players to their home. She would explain how Miller’s mistreatment affected Isaiah and her family. She would share the reports she has received on Isaiah’s mental health. 

Meyer-Crothers said she is not interested in speaking with Sweeney because of how he explained the situation.

“No, I wouldn’t want to speak to him. No,” Meyer-Crothers said. “He made it known that it didn’t really matter what we had to say.”

Both Meyer-Crothers and Crothers also said they do not want to speak to Miller. According to Crothers, Miller reached out to Isaiah on social media approximately a week and a half ago.

“This has been something every time when Mitchell turns around and tries to get on to another hockey team,” Crothers said. “Last year, it was his USHL team. Being drafted by Arizona. Every time this comes up, everybody reaches out to us and to him. This is like the third or fourth time we’ve been through this circus, all over the same situation. Every time, Mitchell has chosen never to reach out and apologize.

“The only time he sought Isaiah out to apologize to him was about a week and a half ago when Boston told him, ‘We’re not signing you unless you apologize.’ So then he decided, ‘Hey, I better get ahold of Isaiah and apologize.’ At that point, he was sorry, but it wasn’t hockey-related. He told Isaiah specifically that he was sorry, that this was not hockey-related, he just really wanted to help kids in a similar situation. That’s why he was reaching out. He tried to sit down with Isaiah and tell him he was sorry, but it was all because of this, because of being signed by Boston. It was about hockey. It wasn’t about kids. It wasn’t about being sorry. It was about his hockey. So it’s empty.”

Crothers and Meyer-Crothers are unhappy with Miller. They are also dissatisfied with the Bruins for how, in their Friday press release, they did not acknowledge Miller’s repeated harassment. 

“The biggest thing people need to know is it’s not a one-time thing,” Meyer-Crothers said. “It was years and years and years of abuse and torment. Our son is an emotional mess at the hands of Mitchell. I’m so thankful the organization wants to help Mitchell. But you’re forgetting that there’s a victim that is traumatized for the rest of his life. What are we doing for him? Because he doesn’t have a hockey talent, his life isn’t as significant? That’s how we kind of feel.

“They keep using the word mistake. He made a ‘mistake’ when he was 14. My problem with Sweeney and with Mitchell is, let’s call it what it was. It was years of abuse. It wasn’t one time. A mistake is maybe something stupid. But what he did really is a lot more. It was premeditated.”

Meyer-Crothers concluded the interview with a final statement.

“Isaiah is just victimized over and over again because Mitchell’s a good hockey player,” she said. “So it’s like you don’t have to show that you’ve grown and you’re remorseful because you’re a good hockey player, so that trumps everything Isaiah’s went through. So it minimizes what Isaiah’s went through and makes him feel like he went through everything in vain. That his life doesn’t matter. And his life does matter. His life matters significantly.”

(Top photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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