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Hockey Diversity Alliance Responds to Bruins’ Signing Fiasco

Graphic courtesy of the Hockey Diversity Alliance

Hockey Diversity Alliance Responds to Bruins’ Signing Fiasco

The Mitchell Miller signing saga has cast a dark cloud over the entire National Hockey League.

Without doing their due diligence, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely signed off on the offered entry-level contract for the 20-year-old defenceman, to which major backlash ensued. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Miller would not be eligible to play in the league, while the family of Miller’s bullying victim spoke out against the signing and clarified what has happened since Miller’s horrific acts of racism were made public.

The Bruins then announced that the club has parted ways with Miller, sending those who follow the league and all of #HockeyTwitter into another firestorm.

The Hockey Diversity Alliance – a nine-member group of coloured NHL athletes of past and present working to  to “eradicate systemic racism and intolerance in hockey” – weighed in on the matter, posting a lengthy statement on social media Tuesday afternoon.

The full statement can be found below:

“First and foremost, we want to express how deeply sorry we are for Isaiah Meyer-Crothers and his family.

We will never truly be able to comprehend their pain when Mitchell Miller coldly and systematically harassed and abused Isaiah, a young Black man with a disability.

In 2020, when reports of this harassment and abuse first surfaced, the Hockey Diversity Alliance reached out to the Meyer-Crothers family and offered our support for them. Members of our organization have stayed in touch with them since then and again over the past week. In fact, Isaiah contacted us this morning and expressed his distress to us. For Isaiah and his family, the healing process has been and will be a matter that will play out over years. Mitchell Miller’s signing with the Boston Bruins had to feel like a bandage being torn off a fresh wound. When Isaiah and his family needed privacy, support and time, Miller’s signing with the Bruins gave them only unwanted attention. Our thoughts are always with them, and our door will always be open.

Sadly, Isaiah and his family were not in the thoughts of the Boston Bruins, if they had been then the team’s management would have at the very least reached out to them before signing Mitchell Miller. That should have been a matter of not just due diligence but also, and more importantly, human decency. If the Bruins had talked to the Meyer-Crothers family, their executives would have quickly recognized the contradictions and lies in the accounts from Miller and his representatives.

Miller’s agent Eustace King had contacted members of the HDA and solicited our approval, which we quickly and emphatically declined. Further, if we had been consulted, we could have told the Bruins that we asked King to drop the matter at this time.

After they did the wrong thing in signing Miller, the Bruins did the right thing in voiding his contract, but only after crushing pressure from the public and even disapproval from players in the Boston organization. NHL leadership also deemed Miller unwelcome, but only after its contract office had approved his contract, a finger-in-the-wind sequence, a late case of conscience.

Some have talked about the concepts of “counsel not cancel” and “restorative justice,” concepts which if followed authentically and sincerely we at the HDA agree with. In this case, however, Miller and the team invoked these concepts out of convenience, a cynical means to an end. We must not allow such stage-managed reformation and apologies to suffice. Miller’s signing provides an instructive example of these terms being weaponized to give cover to a bad actor. If he had been successful, others down the line would work from the same playbook and perpetuate systemic racism we are trying to eradicate at the HDA.

Since we at the HDA took a lead in these conversations, we’ve seen the first black GM and assistant GM hired in the NHL. We’ve seen increased representation of BIPOC and women in the media and hockey-operations department across the NHL and at all levels of the game. We’ve seen the launching of other non-profit organizations that are fighting the same good cause. We are seeing progress and we will continue to fill the silence and have these conversations that make us all feel uncomfortable.

Our goal is, and always will be, to eradicate systemic racism and intolerance from hockey. For us, this means taking a stand and calling out racist or performative behaviours, even when it is uncomfortable to do so. We urge that other individuals and organizations to likewise stand up for what is right rather than offering an easy out to opportunists acting in bad faith, such as the case here. Perhaps we at the HDA will face criticism of being too forthright and forceful in calling out Miller and the Bruins. We’ve been accused of that before and will be again when we speak out again when we encounter racism, ableism, sexism, anti LGBTQ conduct, or any category of hate and discrimination. Our aim is to be a catalyst for positive and progressive change, and we regard truth and accountability as our mission and a point of pride.”

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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