The Athletic

Bruins’ Mitchell Miller signs family of ‘stunned’ bullying victim – mother says son ‘not doing well’ after news

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

“I was very impressed with what they said. Extremely impressed,” said Meyer-Crothers Athleticism. “It definitely reassured us.”

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

“We were totally caught off guard,” Meyer-Crothers said of herself, her 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 to the extent that Mitchell and his family think his career trumps being a good person? That’s kind of the message the Bruins send as well — that talent trumps what you do,” Meyer-Crothers said. “I can’t say it enough. We want Mitchell to get the help he needs. Because he also needs help. So we’re not against that at all. But it’s a privilege to play hockey. Maybe he should have been rehabilitated, then refocused and reviewed to play hockey after he was truly rehabilitated and understood the magnitude of what he did to our son.

As much as Meyer-Crothers appreciated what the Bruins players said, she didn’t hear from anyone directly from the Bruins either before or after the signing. (Athleticism contacted the Bruins to comment on this with no response.)

Had she heard of them, Meyer-Crothers said she would have described how Isaiah and his family are still coping with the aftermath of Miller’s repeated abuse. She described Isaiah as “not doing well at all” after Miller’s signing announcement on Friday.

“Every time it comes up, it brings him back to where he was,” Meyer-Crothers said 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 alone at the dining hall. It’s all that stuff that keeps replaying in his head. That it has no value. That his life doesn’t matter. He was told that his black mother and father did not like him; that’s why he has white parents. Imagine the identity issues that Isaiah faces.

“He was already behind the eight ball because he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and drug exposure. So cognitively, he is already behind. Then you add this stuff to a kid who just wants to have friends. Because he already knows he doesn’t function like other children. He was tormented. This is where I’m struggling. »

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

Meyer-Crothers said she wasn’t interested in speaking with Sweeney because of the way he explained the situation.

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

Meyer-Crothers and Crothers also said they didn’t want to talk to Miller. According to Crothers, Miller reached out to Isaiah on social media about a week and a half ago.

“It’s been something every time Mitchell turns around and tries to join another hockey team,” Crothers said. “Last year it was his USHL team. Drafted by Arizona. Whenever it comes up, everyone reaches out and talks to him. It’s like the third or fourth time we’ve been through this circus, always in the same situation. Each time, Mitchell chose never to reach out and apologize.

“The only time he asked Isaiah to apologize to him was about a week and a half ago when Boston told him, ‘We won’t sign you unless you apologize. . So he decided, ‘Hey, I better contact Isaiah and apologize.’ At that time, he was sorry, but it wasn’t hockey related. He told Isaiah specifically that he was sorry, it wasn’t hockey related, he just really wanted to help kids in a similar situation. That’s why he held out his hand. He tried to sit down with Isaiah and tell him he was sorry, but that was because he was signed by Boston. It was about hockey. They weren’t children. It wasn’t about being sorry. It was about his hockey. So it’s empty. »

Crothers and Meyer-Crothers are unhappy with Miller. They’re also upset with the Bruins for how, in their Friday press release, they failed to acknowledge Miller’s repeated harassment.

“The most important thing people need to know is that this is 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 in Mitchell’s hands. I am so grateful that the organization wants to help Mitchell. But you forget that there is a victim who is traumatized for the rest of her life. What are we doing for him? Because he has no talent for hockey, his life is not so important? That’s how we feel.

“They keep using the word error. He made a “mistake” when he was 14. My problem with Sweeney and with Mitchell is, let’s call it that. It was years of abuse. It wasn’t once. An error may be something stupid. But what he did is really much more. It was premeditated. »

Meyer-Crothers concluded the interview with a closing statement.

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

(Top photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)


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