Flag-runner's family peeved over accusations

PATRICK MALONEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:44 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- The publicly stated reason for stopping flag-running Brier fan Jack Cox in his tracks at the John Labatt Centre is unfair, the man's wife says.

Irked over the suggestion that Cox, 79, had been seen by staff jumping over chairs at the JLC, prompting them to stop his running through the stands, his wife, Willie Cox, says that's simply not the case.

And the suggestion, she adds, has upset some relatives.

"He has never jumped over chairs," she said, resting in her downtown hotel room Thursday after contacting a reporter. "He has given his word he won't run. His word is good.

"But personally we've had grandchildren phoning their parents to see why their grandfather is jumping over chairs. It makes him sound like he's not quite stable."

The Coxes, retirees from Haliburton, Ont., have attended more than a dozen Briers and Jack, who turns 80 this month, has made his runs through the stands -- a giant Ontario flag waving behind him -- an annual rite.

Even the athletes love it, with Ontario skip Glenn Howard joining him in a run through the stands this week.

But JLC officials put a stop to Cox's dashes through the aisles, citing what they see as inherent danger.

Brian Ohl, the JLC's general manager, said some arena staff had reported seeing Cox jumping over chairs.

On Thursday, Ohl said the rink isn't changing its decision, though he understands some people are upset by it.

"I don't know if you've seen some of his things on TV -- for me, it looked like potentially it could be dangerous either to himself or to other patrons.

"Part of our job is to provide a safe environment. He's in great shape but one misstep and that flag can hit somebody or hit him. I don't think it's a good idea."

Though her husband is physically able to jump over chairs, he never would, Willie Cox said.

"I don't think he's angry. He's just disappointed," she said of her husband, who skipped the Thursday morning draws for a Toronto medical appointment.

"Most people are disappointed -- they say let him run."

As for legal concerns -- that Cox could fall down and sue the JLC -- his wife just shakes her head.

The incident hasn't sullied their Brier experience, though. The event organizers, who delivered the arena's warning to Cox, have been good and Londoners friendly, she said.

On Thursday morning, she was resting in her downtown hotel room, her right foot in an air cast from a fall while curling in a Haliburton league.

Cox says she slipped on the ice on January 4 and her ankle "exploded," breaking in three places.

She's asked the question -- did you sue?

"No," she said, laughing. "No way."


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