Colin Kaepernick may not have known it when he knelt for the anthem in a preseason game in 2016, but he was setting a movement in motion. Fast-forward a year to a reignited "stick to sports" debate after a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump in Alabama last week, and the weekend of protests that followed.
Across the National Football League, players took a knee together, or joined hands. NFL owners, many who donated millions to Mr. Trump's campaign, stood with players.
We know Canadians were watching, and weighing in – with friends online, around the table for Sunday dinner, and at the office early this week. That's not based on anecdotes, but data. Our past polling shows that in this country, engagement with and eyeballs on the NFL is second only to the National Hockey League in several provinces – and more popular than the Canadian Football League among the all-lucrative 18- to 34-year-old market.
So what do those of us watching from this side of the border make of it all?
On the football field, shows of unity came to Regina on Sunday as the Roughriders linked arms during the Canadian national anthem at Mosaic Stadium. Offensive lineman Derek Dennis noted that "just because we're north of the border we're not blind to what's going on back home." Many of the team's players are from the United States, some having played in the NFL.
Off the field, the Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians earlier this year and found solid support for some acts of athlete protest, more rigid discomfort when it came to others.
First, a firm majority, 57 per cent, say that they back the right of professional athletes to use their platform to give voice to political causes that are close to them.
Link to the poll here: www.angusreid.org/canadians-stand-takeaknee