The Boston Bruins said Thursday that an internal review conducted by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch into the organization’s failure to properly vet the signing of toxic prospect Mitchell Miller revealed “no misconduct” by team executives. Instead, the review provided a series of specific recommendations to be implemented to prevent a recurrence of the same mistake.
That means there will be no discipline for team executives responsible for the signing, although the report acknowledged “gaps in the club’s procedures.”
The Bruins have called it an “independent review,” which was led by Lynch and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison – although the review was initiated and paid for by the Bruins’ organization, which doesn’t make it truly “independent.”
The team’s press release said “Bruins leadership and employees cooperated fully” and included interviews and the reviews of “thousands of documents and communications relating to the signing of Miller.” The exact findings and substance of those interviews and documents were not publicly released, as other teams have done upon the completion of internal reviews, such as the Chicago Blackhawks with the Kyle Beach sexual assault.
The Bruins signed Miller, 21, to a three-year, entry-level contract on Nov. 4. He was previously renounced as an Arizona Coyotes draft pick after it came to light that Miller was convicted in juvenile court for physical, mental and racial abuse of a developmentally-disabled Black classmate as a 14-year-old.
Within hours of Miller’s signing, the Bruins received significant pushback from their own players, fans, corporate partners and even the NHL’s commissioner’s office on the decision. Commissioner Gary Bettman said Miller was not eligible to play in the league. The story further unraveled when a statement from Miller’s agent, Eustace King of O2K Sports, was picked apart for inaccuracies and mistruths.
Two days after signing Miller, the Bruins released a statement on Nov. 6 saying they “decided to part ways” with Miller. To date, Miller remains under contract with the Bruins, and has earned more than $116,000.
The victim, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, and his family spoke out in the days following Miller’s signing, saying: “It hurts my heart what he did to me … I can’t take more of this.” Bruins president Cam Neely publicly apologized to Meyer-Crothers and also spoke to Meyer-Crothers’ mother, who provided further insight into the situation.
Why the Bruins failed to contact the Meyer-Crothers family before the decision to sign him as part of the due diligence process is one reason why the review was commissioned. The Bruins vowed to examine their player-vetting process to ensure the process moving forward “reflects our core values.”
According to the Bruins, the review recommended a series of specific actions:
• Establish clear written policies for vetting off-ice conduct, including identifying red flags requiring detailed vetting and documented resolution
• Establish clear timetables and responsibilities within the organization to investigate prospects’ community or other off-ice commitments
• Establish centralized documentation of vetting to include reporting on red flags and off-ice issues and ensure such documentation is available to all stakeholders involved in the process
• Establish tracking system to ensure responsibilities for all vetting tasks are clearly assigned and tracked.
• Utilize independent third-party resources to investigate and resolve factual issues when reviewing red flags
• Determine whether there are specific training or rehabilitation programs the prospect should participate in depending on the nature of the red flags.
The Bruins said Thursday that they will implement the recommended changes “immediately.” The next step will be determining how they will officially cut ties with Miller, who remains under contract. Since the contract was officially registered by the NHL, they may conduct a buyout this summer, attempt to arrange a settlement with Miller and the NHL Players’ Association, or plead a case to unilaterally terminate the contract, which could be met with resistance since his previous history was well reported.