In the English Premier League, as in life, racial minorities are attacked regularly. People of colour suffer horrendous abuse. White footballers are mostly fine. The racial majority always does better. Everyone else is vulnerable. You and I instinctively know…

In the English Premier League, as in life, racial minorities are attacked regularly. People of colour suffer horrendous abuse.
White footballers are mostly fine. The racial majority always does better. Everyone else is vulnerable.
You and I instinctively know that. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows that, too.
The Manchester United manager is not a racist. On the contrary, he is a kind, empathetic and compassionate man, but he made an unfathomable mistake.
In a tense moment, he conceded the moral high ground and blew on a dog whistle for racists. Obviously, that wasn’t his intention. But that doesn’t change the outcome either.
As soon as Solskjaer turned a legitimate criticism of VAR technology into an illegitimate attack on Son Heung-min, the floodgates to a rancid cesspool opened.
Tottenham Hotspur’s South Korean forward has endured vicious abuse for more than 24 hours now. His race, skin colour, nationality and culture have all been targeted. Nothing is off limits to a hidden, nasty group that is neither restrained nor accountable.
No human being deserves what Son has experienced in the last day or so, least of all a decent, humble role model for Asian football.
In the current climate, racist abuse was sadly inevitable. Son had played a role in an excellent United goal being chalked off. But Solskjaer must also acknowledge that his comments hardly relieved the tension.
At this juncture, only two groups could possibly disagree with that assertion – racists and jaundiced Red Devils unable to step out of their bubble long enough to recognise the real world.
In the real world, little provocation is needed. Raging keyboard warriors rarely need an incentive to go after a footballer of colour, so they’re hardly going to miss an opportunity to take a manager’s comments and bend them out of shape.
Solskjaer effectively called Son a cheat. The South Korean isn’t a cheat. Scott McTominay’s hand accidentally caught Son in the cheek.
As I pointed out in my original match comment, contact was made. But contact doesn’t automatically mean a foul.
In this instance, only VAR’s inconsistency was worthy of our collective wrath.
When Solskjaer criticised the decision to disallow United’s goal, adding that “the game is gone”, he spoke for the sensible majority. He didn’t need to elaborate. He had both the win and a sympathetic audience.
But he kept going. Referring to Son, he said: “If that was my son and he stays down and he needs his mates to help him up, he doesn’t get food because that’s embarrassing.”
And in that moment, when he challenged the South Korean’s integrity, he roused an ugly minority. Clearly, that wasn’t Solskjaer’s objective. Clearly, it didn’t matter. Open season was declared on Son.
Provocative comments cannot be examined in isolation any more. Context matters. In the volatile era of Trump’s “China flu” and sustained attacks on Asian-Americans – not to mention a rise in racist abuse against Britain Asians – greater sensitivity is required. Nuance is necessary.
INFLAMMATORY
Suggesting a high-profile Asian footballer is a cheat and an unworthy son is awkward at best and inflammatory at worst (and the negative father-son analogy was a tad insensitive among cultures that proudly advocate filial piety).
Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the British media chose to focus on Jose Mourinho’s unsolicited response, mocking the Spurs manager for another characteristic meltdown whilst glossing over Solskjaer’s original criticism.
Sadly, this is not uncommon for a product that tends to take the easy road, rather than the high road.
One manager essentially called a footballer a conman and a familial disgrace. The other manager defended his player. Guess which manager suffered the brunt of the media’s criticism? Go figure.
Of course, no one has suffered as much as Son. Tottenham condemned the “abhorrent racial abuse” and demanded action from the relevant platforms.
Spurs may follow Swansea City, Rangers and retired legends like Thierry Henry in boycotting social media.
In the meantime, Solskjaer might want to reconsider his comments in light of recent developments and offer Son an apology, or at least something more constructive than an accusation of cheating.
He didn’t mean to hurt the South Korean, obviously, but he certainly didn’t help.
Even if the original contact was minimal, Son really doesn’t deserve to be slapped in the face twice.