Carson Briere apologizes for damaging wheelchair after 'disturbing video' surfaces

Brière's son, Carson, currently plays for the Mercyhurst Lakers in the NCAA.

Mercyhurst Lakers center Carson Briere just went viral for all the wrong reasons. (AP Photo)
Mercyhurst Lakers center Carson Briere just went viral for all the wrong reasons. (AP Photo)

After a video surfaced on social media showing NCAA hockey player Carson Briere pushing a wheelchair down a flight of stairs at a nightclub, criticism quickly followed. The video of Briere’s actions, originally posted by Julia Zukowski on Tuesday, received several million views on Twitter.

Eventually, the post reached Mercyhurst University, who replied to Zukowski’s post with a statement on the incident.

“Late this afternoon, Mercyhurst University became aware of a disturbing video in which one of our student-athletes is seen pushing an unoccupied wheelchair down a flight of stairs at a local establishment. Our Office of Student Conduct and Department of Police and Safety are investigating.”

According to reports, the wheelchair had been left at the top of a flight of stairs at the inaccessible establishment, while the user had been carried down the stairs to utilize a washroom. In their absence, Briere is seen pushing the wheelchair down the stairs before returning to the nightclub.

The incident was amplified by Briere’s familial connections, as he is the son of current Philadelphia Flyers interim general manager and 17-year NHL veteran Daniel Briere. Less than a week ago, Briere was appointed as interim general manager of the Flyers after the organization fired Chuck Fletcher from the role.

Briere recently finished his junior season with the Mercyhurst Lakers, having been twice named an Atlantic Hockey Association all-conference team member. The 23-year-old, along with the interim Flyers GM, each released a statement on Wednesday in response to the incident:

Briere was previously dismissed from Arizona State University’s men’s hockey program for violations of their team rules before transferring to Mercyhurst. In Briere’s own words, the issue related to “too much partying, that’s probably the best way to put it.”

“I was just going out; I wasn’t taking hockey seriously. It wasn’t anything bad, it was just not being committed to hockey, I was more committed to having fun at school,” Briere said in an article for College Hockey News highlighting his “second chance” at Mercyhurst.

Many advocates, including Emily Ladau, author of Demystifying Disability spoke out about the gravity of Briere’s actions.

“It might seem like nothing more than immature, drunken behaviour, but what Briere and his friends did is a frightening example of complete disregard for the humanity of disabled people,” Ladau told Yahoo Sports Canada. “As a wheelchair user, even when I'm not physically sitting in it, I consider my chair an extension of my body. Damaging my wheelchair means you're disrespecting me and taking away my freedom of movement. The issue here isn't just damaged property or bad choices; it's that ableism, privilege, and entitlement are on full display.”

Chanel Keenan, community manager for Hockey of Tomorrow, and former intersectionality consultant for the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, was another voice who joined the chorus against Briere’s actions.

When Keenan entered the hockey world, she asked a very simple question about individuals with disabilities in hockey, “How can I shed light on a community that isn’t embraced in the traditional way, in hockey? I know I can’t be the only disabled fan of this sport. There has to be more.”

Following Briere’s actions, Keenan penned a response asking another question, “What’s so funny?”

“What’s so funny about being caught on camera, sitting in a wheelchair that doesn’t belong to you, and then flippantly chucking it down a flight of stairs?” Kennan wrote.

“What’s funny? What’s funny is how long it takes to get a wheelchair. I’ve been lucky to get one within six months. Depending on how or if insurances are involved it can take longer. What’s funny is how my power wheelchair costs about half as much as a brand new car. What’s funny is how little disregard we have for disabled people, really, for people in general. It’s made us so cruel.”

She continued: “A good friend helps out by carrying their friend to the bathroom because the establishment isn’t wheelchair accessible. 'Hey let’s tuck your wheelchair here, out of the way but easy for us to put you back into after you use the bathroom.' Only to come back to it at the bottom of the stairs… in pieces. What’s so funny about that?”

It’s a question, alongside issues of racism and homophobia in hockey, that speaks to concerns scholars and advocates have raised about how hockey views people who have disabilities, including those who play the sport itself.

As claimed by Laura Misener, professor and director at Western University’s school of kinesiology in a recent article for The Conversation, hockey has long disadvantaged and discriminated against people who have a disability, including in funding and support for para-sport athletes. As Misener wrote, para ice hockey programs are often “treated as an afterthought” by “ableist” governing bodies.

Briere and the Mercyhurst Lakers men’s hockey team were recently eliminated from the AHA playoffs, falling in two straight games to the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers. Currently, the incident remains under investigation by Mercyhurst University and police.