The National Football League is making news not just because the league starts play this week, but because of who is not playing.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refuses to stand for the national anthem, has not been signed by any team. Many observers believe that Kaepernick's kneeling during the anthem, to protest police brutality and racial oppression, has led to him being blackballed. Other players have followed Kaepernick's lead and several groups have organized demonstrations and boycotts of the NFL.
It is not surprising that sport can be exclusive and divisive. But sport also has the power to bring people of diverse backgrounds together.
The Canadian Football League recently rolled out its Diversity is Strength campaign. It includes team personnel on the sidelines wearing T-shirts during games featuring the slogan "Diversity is Strength."
Those same words were used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January when President Trump was attempting to close U.S. borders to certain groups of people. The campaign, which emphasizes the diverse nature of the players in the CFL, was unveiled after the Charlottesville protest.
A spokesperson revealed that the campaign, designed to emphasize multiculturalism in recognition of Canada's 150 anniversary, was to have launched in the fall, but was released early after the Virginia tragedy.
With this campaign, the CFL joins the lengthy list of other Canadian companies seeking to use multiculturalism to boost business. Many Canadians have long held the belief that high rates of immigration and the policy of multiculturalism strengthens the country.
The T-shirts feature a long list of players with diverse surnames. An accompanying ad is available on the Internet and is airing on television.
Many Canadians stereotypically believe that racial and ethnic tensions are less of a problem in Canada. However, Canada's history of racial and ethnic relations has recently been called into question not only with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but also the renaming of the Langevin Block and the Ontario teachers union's request to erase John A. Macdonald's name from schools.
The CFL could be accused of attempting to capitalize on the Charlottesville tragedy by espousing the superiority of Canada over the United States. However, a statement from the CFL suggested the campaign is designed to counter racial and ethnic hostility and "shine a spotlight on inclusiveness and unity following the events that took place in Virgina."
Historically, Canadian football seems to have been less afflicted with racial problems. Black quarterbacks like Bernie Custis, Chuck Ealey and Warren Moon played in Canada after being denied a chance in the U.S.
Custis is one name featured in the campaign. Another is Herb Trawick, a former Montreal Alouette who broke the colour barrier in professional football. Tom Casey's name is also featured. Casey, an African-American, was a star for Winnipeg while in medical school and was once named Winnipeg Citizen of the Year.
However, football in Canada has many dark episodes as well. George Reed's image is shown during the video. Reed had trouble renting an apartment when he moved to Canada, and, at the time, spoke about racism he encountered.
Others included on the list are players born in Germany (Zenon Andrushyshyn), Italy (Wally Buono), Iran (Sherko Haji-Rasouli), Fiji (Bobby Singh) and Belgium (Pierre Vercheval).
Players of Greek descent (Leon Hatziioannou and Pete Giftopolous), Polish and Ukranian (Duane Dmytryshyn, Tony Pajaczkowski, and Joe Poplawski), Hawaiian (Joe Paoapao), Hungarian (Ken Szarka), Serbian (the Zizakovich brothers) and also players of Asian descent (Brad Yamaoka, Brian Chiu and Normie Kwong) are included.
The list also includes indigenous players J.R. Larose and Jack Jacobs, and a Muslim (Obby Khan) of Indian descent.
The video reminds fans that diversity includes more than just race and ethnicity with Catherine Raîche, assistant general manager for the Alouettes.
Three years ago the CFL partnered with You Can Play, an organization dedicated to ensuring equality without regard to sexual orientation.
Sport can be divisive, after all it is about us versus them. However, at a time when societal problems associated with racial and ethnic divisions seem to be at the forefront, it is reassuring to be reminded that sport can bring together diverse peoples.John Valentine teaches sport sociology at MacEwan University.