Two Canadian men may face charges of flag desecration and vandalism in California over a controversial display of Olympic pride.

Police in La Quinta say the men are accused of taking down the American banner and replacing it with a Canadian flag after Canada beat the U.S. in the men's gold-medal hockey match at the Vancouver Olympics in February.

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Flag desecration: Should it be a criminal act? 

The U.S. flag had been on display on a mountain and was maintained by a resident of Indian Wells, Calif., in honour of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The flag was found damaged.

A complaint has been sent to the district attorney's office recommending state misdemeanour charges be laid against the men, police said. The men could face up to a year in jail if convicted.

Police identified the Canadians as Ryan Smith, 25, and Matt Siefert, 26. Both are said to be residents of the state.

Bill Fiebig, Riverside County sheriff's deputy, told the Desert Sun newspaper of Palm Springs in March that the men showed remorse, adding that they did not know why the American flag had been erected.