Boston Bruins hire firm to review player vetting process

FILE - Boston Bruins President Cam Neely speaks to reporters during the hockey teams end-of-season news conference, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Boston. Neely said Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, the team dropped the ball" with its internal vetting of Mitchell Miller, ultimately leading to the decision to rescind its contract offer to the defenseman. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (Steven Senne, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins have hired a law firm led by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review their player vetting process after signing prospect Mitchell Miller and then rescinding his contract offer.

The team announced Tuesday it retained Lynch of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an independent review of the process. Miller, who was convicted of assault in 2016 for bullying a Black classmate with developmental disabilities in middle school, signed an entry-level deal with Boston this month even though the Arizona Coyotes previously relinquished their rights to him after drafting him in 2020.

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The Bruins rescinded Miller's contract offer after facing harsh criticism around the hockey community and from players currently in the NHL. In their latest statement, they pledged to cooperate with Lynch's investigation and publicly disclose the results of the review when completed.

“We recently fell short of our high standards and disappointed both ourselves and many in our community," the Bruins said. “Moving forward, we are committed to ensuring that our values are reflected in everything we do as an organization, including our process for vetting future players.”

Bruins President Cam Neely said the team “dropped the ball” in its vetting process in the aftermath of the signing and rescinding fiasco, which still has multiple ways it could get worked out since Miller is technically still under contract and part of the organization until it's terminated or bought out or there's a settlement.

Neely said in a statement the Bruins thought Miller’s conduct was an isolated incident and that the team reversed course based on new information — particularly that the team hadn’t spoken to victim Isaiah Meyer-Crothers or his family.

Neely met with Miller, agent Eustace King and Miller’s mother prior to signing him. Neely said he shouldn’t have assumed the vetting process also included a meeting with Meyer-Crothers’ family. Asked why that didn’t happen, Neely said: “It’s a great question. Something I need to find out.”

After the Bruins announced the signing of Miller, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the 20-year-old defenseman would not currently be eligible to play in the league without major changes. Boston players voiced opposition to adding Miller, with veteran forward Nick Foligno saying it was “hard to swallow.”

In a statement released last week by the Hockey Diversity Alliance, Meyer-Crothers said he hasn't seen any proof Miller has changed his ways. Meyer-Crothers said Miller reached out by text to apologize and to say he was doing community work to help young people.

Lynch was already involved in another high-profile sports matter relating to race. The NFL in February hired her and her firm to defend it and its teams in the race discrimination lawsuit brought by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.

The Bruins said retaining Lynch "will help us ensure that our process going forward reflects our core values.”


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