Some black family members skip European soccer championship

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LONDON (AP) — Some family members of England’s black players will avoid traveling to the European Championship because of fears of racist abuse and violence.

Former England international Mark Chamberlain, the father of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, told Sky Sports News on Friday that he is likely to stay home rather than go to Poland and Ukraine, after both the British government and human rights organizations warned about the possibility of racist abuse in the co-host nations.

“It’s a major concern,” Chamberlain said, adding that he still hasn’t made a final decision on whether to travel to the tournament. “I think your safety is more important than a game of football. There are reports over the last couple of weeks of racist taunts and threats, it’s just prudent for myself to keep away from it.”

Last week, the family of fellow Arsenal winger Theo Walcott said it would stay home because of the same concerns.

The 18-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain was given his first England call-up by coach Roy Hodgson for the Euro 2012 squad after impressing with his speed and dribbling ability for Arsenal this season.

“It’s very disappointing,” Chamberlain said about maybe missing his son’s first major tournament. “Obviously there has been concerted efforts and campaigns to tackle racism, and in this country it seems to have gone well, but unfortunately in other parts of the world maybe not so well.”

Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott said “it was quite alarming to see the reports about the situation” in Poland and Ukraine.

“It’s a shame for some members of the squad that their families feel they can’t go and obviously it’s a situation that needs to be addressed,” Lescott said.

He added that his own family isn’t traveling to the tournament either, but for logistical reasons.

“It’s not the same as with Theo’s and Alex’s family,” he said.

Amnesty International is among the organizations who have expressed concern about racism in Poland, where England will have its base from their arrival on June 6.

“The harsh reality is that racism remains commonplace in Poland and there are numerous reports of xenophobia on the terraces and in the stands of Polish football grounds,” said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK. “For any fan choosing to travel to the country they should be fully aware that their experience may well be far different from their experience here in the UK.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.