The circumstances have left a section of the Aberdeen support enraged that new manager Stephen Glass has signed up Brown as a player-coach next season – a move that will bring to a close his 14 years at the Glasgow club. It forced the Pittodrie club’s chairman Dave Cormack this week to defend his capture. He maintained there was no issue between the veteran and Logan – loaned to Hearts last week – and that supporting Tonev did not make Brown guilty of the racism that eventually earned the Bulgarian a seven-match ban in October 2014.
The Celtic captain stated before a decision was reached in the case that the club’s “whole dressing room believe[d]” Tonev and “know he doesn’t come in and lie”. On-field racism has become a vexing issue once more following the racial abuse Glen Kamara suffered when Rangers played Slavia Prague last month, which led Brown to win universal praise for his public gesture of support for the midfielder as the teams warmed up before their derby a fortnight ago.
However, despite the Ondrej Kudela and Kamara situation having clear parallels with what took place between Tonev and Logan - no other players hearing directly what was said by the accused - the 35-year-old departing Celtic captain is reluctant to rethink his stance over Toney in 2014. Even as he claimed there is mutual respect between him and Logan, thereafter treated shamefully by the Celtic support simply for calling out racism.
“It’s a very hard thing, because you have one player saying he got racially abused, and then you’ve got a teammate that says he didn’t say it,” said Brown of the events with Tonev. “It’s hard because we’ve had players in the past like Scotty [Sinclair], we’ve had Moussa [Dembele] and we’ve had Odsonne [Edouard] getting racially abused, and that should never happen in football no matter who you play for. You can’t be doing that through Instagram or Twitter or anything like that.
“This club has been fantastic, we work very closely with Show Racism the Red Card and we all firmly believe in that. It doesn’t matter where you come from, as soon as you walk in the door you are accepted and you are part of us, Celtic Football Club, and Aberdeen will be as well. They will be open to every single player. It doesn’t matter about your religion, the colour of your skin, or where you come from. It’s about being a teammate and doing the best for your teammates.
“At that time, I stuck up for my team-mate because he [Tonev] swore to me that I didn’t do it, so you’ve got to take his stance on that. To this day, I still don’t know whether he said it or not. It was one person’s word against the other. But I’ve got huge respect for Shay. He’s been a fantastic player for Aberdeen over the years, he’s worked extremely hard. We’ve had a lot of battles over the course of our careers, and it’s been enjoyable to be fair. I’m sure he’d say the exact same.”