David Cox abuse: 'People reveal their passions and their prejudices at football' - Joshua King

In a past life I was the stadium announcer at Peterhead FC.

I did it for a year covering the Blue Toon for The Scotsman’s stablemate The Buchanie. That year was more than enough time to learn that lower league Scottish football is journalistic Disneyland.

Not a week went by without a bizarre referee spat over hot food or the star striker being offered fresh fish as a thank you.

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So when I heard former Peterhead forward David Cox had retired from football mid-game on Thursday night, during Albion Rovers’ clash with Stenhousemuir, I was hardly shocked.

Until I found out why.

I knew David a bit when he was at Balmoor. A fiery and outspoken fan favourite, he was a brilliant post-match interviewee.

Outside the game, he’s spoken frankly about his mental health. That’s why I was so sickened to hear, in a video he posted on social media mid-way through Thursday’s match, that a Stennie player had allegedly taunted David about a suicide attempt.

"He told me I should have done it right the first time,” David said.

David Cox retired from football mid-game on Thursday night, posting a video on social media reacting to taunts he faced.

There was, thankfully, swift condemnation from across football for the alleged remarks and Stenhousemuir player Jonathan Tiffoney is now on a leave of absence from the club.

This isn’t the first time David has faced abuse because he showed courage to speak about mental health in a sport fuelled by machismo. And that it happened on the pitch matters. It matters a lot.

It matters because we put our footballers on pedestals. We celebrate and grieve with them, live their triumphs and sorrows.

There’s an honesty to what’s said and sung on the terraces. People reveal who they really are, their passion and their prejudices too.

Contrasting fan responses to Black Lives Matter and taking the knee have shown that yet again.

This weekend The Scotsman’s sport social media accounts have joined a boycott in solidarity with clubs and other sporting bodies against sexist and racist abuse. David, rightly, hopes we can rid the game of the scourge of mental health stigma too.

Coxy’s early exit is a loss for Scottish football. I hope, in time, taking a stand can feel like a personal victory against abuse. I stand in solidarity with David.

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