Neil Humphreys: Walk away from racism, England
Captain Kane should lead Three Lions off the pitch if any teammate becomes a victim of racial abuse
White footballers are not targets. Their skin colour isn't a cause for abuse. They do not fear for their safety inside foreign stadiums.
White footballers do not endure monkey noises. They do not get bananas thrown at them. They do not get spat at when they take throw-ins.
White footballers are rarely, if ever, made aware of their whiteness, which is the very essence of racial privilege.
They have the privilege of choice and the inherent power that comes with it. They can choose to support racially abused players.
England captain Harry Kane not only understands his white privilege, he's also willing to use it in upcoming games against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
And he must. The Three Lions should be ready to walk.
If the likes of Tammy Abraham, who has already endured horrendous abuse this season, suffers again, England are prepared to leave the pitch.
Abraham said as much yesterday, recalling a team meeting with Kane, who reiterated the dressing room's zero-tolerance policy.
England's pessimistic overtures are not the work of hyperactive imaginations, but a fair reflection of their upcoming opponents.
The Bulgarians can't behave themselves.
England face the Czech Republic on Saturday morning (Singapore time) and Bulgaria on Tuesday morning in a partially closed stadium, thanks to fans' racist behaviour in June.
In August, Uefa also punished Bulgarian club sides Levski Sofia and Lokomotiv Plovdiv for racism during Europa League games.
The Bulgarians are not learning lessons.
Still, Abraham's thoughtful comments on the issue have led to the striker being praised for his measured take on the endless cycle of abuse.
He's been called brave. He's been called honest.
He probably just wants to be called a footballer.
He presumably doesn't want to be the latest anti-racism torchbearer from the community of abused black players, any more than Raheem Sterling does.
Why must the problem of racial abuse be the victim's problem? The onus is on the other footballers, surely, the beneficiaries of white privilege, to adopt the problem as if it were their own.
And it is their problem, according to Gareth Southgate. The England manager deserves credit for adopting such an empathetic approach.
When a black Englishman is abused, white colleagues are expected to take a stand, according to Southgate.
He has already made the preliminary call. Kane will make the final decision on the pitch. But if the Three Lions experience racism, they have agreed to take the game away from the racists.
They must walk.
Nothing else has stopped the knuckle-draggers. Uefa has handed down fines and partial bans, but they are tokenistic gestures.
The racists still slink into the stadiums, determined to ruin the spectacle. So the spectacle should be pulled away from them, taken by people of the same skin colour.
White footballers have to silence white racists. Why must it be the job of 22-year-old Abraham to call for action?
The kid can't stop scoring. He's knocked in nine goals for Chelsea. He's about to feature in his first Euro 2020 qualifier.
He should be giddy at the prospect of fulfilling a lifelong ambition.
Instead, he's got to play the sombre, anti-racism campaigner, the latest talented, black footballer to spend more time on his skin colour than his electrifying form.
He's got to think about his mother, breaking down after he was racially abused for missing a Chelsea penalty in the European Super Cup against Liverpool.
He's got to face questions about anonymous, cowardly trolls and answer them calmly like the diplomat he shouldn't need to be.
He just wants to talk football, like Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Kurt Zouma. But they can't, because they are victims of abuse and therefore automatic spokesmen for anti-racism measures.
And that shouldn't be their job, not alone anyway.
Uefa should do the job. But the three-step procedure - an appeal over the PA system, a temporary suspension and then abandoning the match - won't work because of the obvious underlying weakness.
Uefa officials are never the most powerful people inside a stadium. It's always the footballers, but only if they are united.
Players like Sulley Muntari had left the field in protest in the past, but no one else followed. Such a protest must be all or nothing.
White and black footballers cannot tolerate the kind of intolerant behaviour no longer accepted in any other industry.
They win together. And, if necessary, they walk off together.
England may end up with the wrong result. But they'll be on the right side of history.
- Montenegro v Bulgaria, 2.45am
- Czech Republic v England, 2.45am
- Kosovo v Montenegro, 2.45am
- Bulgaria v England, 2.45am