Carson Briere apologizes for damaging wheelchair after ‘disturbing video’ surfaces
After a video of NCAA hockey player Carson Brier pushing a wheelchair down the stairs at a nightclub surfaced on social media, criticism soon followed. Brier Action Video, originally posted by Julia Zhukovsky received several million views on Twitter on Tuesday.
The message eventually reached Mercyhurst University, which responded to Zukowski’s message with a statement about the incident.
“Tonight Mercyhurst University became aware of a disturbing video of one of our student athletes pushing an empty wheelchair down stairs at a local facility. Our Office of Student Conduct and the Department of Police and Security are investigating.”
The wheelchair was reportedly left at the top of a flight of stairs in an inaccessible facility and the user was carried down the stairs to use the restroom. In their absence, Brière is seen pushing the wheelchair down the stairs before returning to the nightclub.
The incident was exacerbated by Brier’s family ties, as he is the son of current Philadelphia Flyers acting general manager and 17-year NHL veteran Daniel Brier. Less than a week ago, Brier was named interim general manager of the Flyers after the organization fired Chuck Fletcher from that position.
Brier recently completed his junior season with the Mercyhurst Lakers, having been named to the Atlantic Hockey Association Conference team twice. The 23-year-old, along with the Flyers’ acting CEO, released a statement on Wednesday in response to the incident:
Brier had previously been fired from Arizona State University. men’s hockey program for violating the rules of his team before moving to Mercyhurst. In Brière’s own words, the problem was “too many parties, that’s probably the best way to put it.”
“I was just leaving; I didn’t take hockey seriously. There was nothing wrong with that, I was just not attached to hockey, I was more eager to have fun at school, ”Brier said in an article for College Hockey News highlighting his “second chance” at Mercyhurst.
Many defenders, including Emily Ladau, author of the book Disability demystification spoke out about the seriousness of Brier’s actions.
“This may seem like nothing more than immature drunken behavior, but what Brière and his friends have done is a chilling example of a complete disregard for the humanity of people with disabilities,” Ladau told Sportzshala Sports Canada. “As a wheelchair user, even when I’m not physically sitting in it, I consider my chair an extension of my body. Damage to my wheelchair means you are disrespecting me and taking away my freedom of movement. The problem here is not only damaged property or poor selection; it’s that ableism, privileges and rights are on display for all to see.”
Chanel Keenan, Community Manager Hockey of tomorrowand former NHL intersectionality consultant The Seattle Kraken was another voice that joined the chorus against Brière’s actions.
When Keenan entered the hockey world, she asked a very simple question on people with disabilities in hockey: “How can I shed light on a community that is not traditionally accepted in hockey? I know that I cannot be the only disabled fan of this sport. There should be more.”
After Brier’s actions, Keenan wrote back asking another question: “What’s funny?”
“What’s so funny about being caught on camera sitting in a wheelchair that doesn’t belong to you and then casually tossing it down the stairs?” Kennan wrote.
“What’s so funny? What’s funny is how long it takes to get a wheelchair. I was lucky to get one within six months. Depending on how or if insurances are involved, this may take longer. What’s funny is that my power wheelchair costs about half as much as a new car. What’s funny is how little disregard we have for people with disabilities, in fact, for people in general. It made us so cruel.”
She continued, “A good friend helps by carrying his friend to the bathroom because this place is not wheelchair accessible. “Hey, let’s hide your wheelchair here so it’s out of the way, but it’ll be easy for us to put you back in after you’ve used the bathroom.” Only to return to him at the bottom of the stairs…in pieces. What’s funny about that?”
This question, along with issues of racism and homophobia in hockey, speaks to the concerns scholars and advocates have expressed about how hockey treats people with disabilities, including those who play the sport themselves.
According to Laura Mizener, professor and director of the Western University School of Kinesiology, in a recent article for Talk, hockey has long disadvantaged and discriminated against people with disabilities, including when funding and supporting parasport athletes. As Misener wrote, “ablelist” governing bodies often “treat the Para Hockey programs as something of an afterthought.”
Brier and the Mercyhurst Lakers men’s ice hockey team were recently eliminated from the AHA playoffs, losing in two straight games to the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers. The incident is currently being investigated by Mercyhurst University and the police.