MIDDLESBROUGH’S players have decided to stop the pre-match practice of taking a knee, with skipper Britt Assombalonga arguing it is time for “action instead of empty statements”.

Assombalonga led a team meeting last week in which Boro’s players were invited to discuss their thoughts on the act of taking a knee, a symbolic gesture that was coopted by the Black Lives Matter movement after starting in American football, and which has become commonplace at all levels of English football in the last few months.

Last week, QPR director of football Les Ferdinand delivered a passionate explanation of why his club’s players would no longer be taking a knee, arguing that the gesture had become little more than a gimmick that was deflecting attention away from football’s failure to address deep-rooted inequality in certain aspects of the game.

Assombalonga agrees with Ferdinand’s assessment of the situation, and having joined QPR in opting not to take a knee at the weekend, Boro’s players will be sticking with their new stance for this weekend’s home game with Barnsley.

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about as a squad, and we’ve just come to this decision,” said Assombalonga, who took over the captain’s armband earlier this summer. “We obviously took the knee in the last game, but as a squad, we’ve talked about it since then. As a captain, I spoke to the boys because I wanted to take that responsibility. QPR didn’t do it at their last game, so it was something we spoke about.

“There’s an important point to it, but I just feel now that there has to be action. It has to lead to something, as opposed to just being a trend. It can’t be a case of us just doing it for the sake of doing it. We want to see some action.

“I don’t want to be doing it for the rest of my career. I’ve probably got six or seven years left of my career – I don’t want to be taking a knee every time but then still be waiting for a change.

“I’ve got a little girl, and I don’t want her to be asking, ‘Daddy, why do you keep on taking a knee?’, and then when I explain to her, she asks, ‘Well, has there been any change?’, and I have to say, ‘Well, no, actually there’s not been any change’. We didn’t take the knee today, and that’s why – because we want to see change.”