CNN host W. Kamau Bell made a request of Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps: please relinquish the honor of carrying the U.S. Flag at the Olympics Opening Ceremony -- an honor bestowed on you through decades of achievement -- to a female Muslim Olympian. Because it would, to Bell, nullify "the most contentious, controversial, scandal-ridden, hateful, xenophobic, jingoistic, and just generally unlikable presidential elections in recent memory."
Yes, in an OpEd for CNN just prior to the 2016 Rio games kicking off, Bell asked Phelps to allow his Olympic colleague, Ibtihad Muhammad, a world champion female fencer for the U.S. team, to carry the flag instead:
Dear Michael Phelps,
Thank you! I really appreciate the fact that you have made -- or will make -- the right choice here. You haven't announced it yet, but I'm sure you will soon. I know you have a big machine behind you. With The Olympics coming up, it must be extremely hectic around you right now. It has to be difficult to contact all your trainers, coaches, business managers, talent managers, Hollywood agents, sponsors, counsellors, associated charities, foundations, staff, assistants, friends, family, boys clubs, and girls clubs to let them know that you have turned down such an honor.
Obviously, I am talking about what I hope will be your decision to decline the position as flag bearer in opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro on Friday.
While you haven't said this yet, I'm sure this is what you are going to do, because you are not only an Olympic hero, you are -- by medal count -- the Olympic hero. And yes, being asked to carry the flag is a big deal. I'm betting that even a star of your magnitude is still feeling the glow of being voted to carry the flag by your Olympic peers. But I know that you must know that there is a better choice to carry the flag -- the athlete who came in second to you in the vote for flag bearer, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.
Bell than had the audacity to tell Phelps it "shouldn't be a big deal for you to give up your spot."
What I'm trying to say is that as far as America is concerned, you are a golden boy ... literally. You getting the opportunity to carry the flag is like Michael Jordan getting a free pair of Nike sneakers. [...] And that's why I would be proud of you for giving up your position to Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad carrying the flag would be much bigger than your one moment.
It would be a symbol for our country in this moment when we are mostly known for one of the most contentious, controversial, scandal-ridden, hateful, xenophobic, jingoistic, and just generally unlikeable presidential elections in recent memory.
Muhammad, based on the tweet below, didn't seem to mind that Phelps carried the flag. Wow. She seems like she's all about the spirit of good sportsmanship, which is what the Olympics is all about. Too bad it turns out she's a stereotypically, ill-informed anti-Semite (click link for her tweets on that front), who routinely peddles the narrative about how Muslims are persecuted in the West.