CNN Anchor Says Muslim Fencer More Deserving Than Phelps Of Carrying American Flag At Olympics

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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A CNN host believes that a Muslim-American fencer is more deserving of holding the American flag of the opening ceremony of the Olympics than Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time.

W. Kamau Bell, comedian and host of CNN’s United Shades Of America, wrote an editorial for CNN essentially stressing the point that if Phelps is already such a revered and accomplished athlete, then Ibtihaj Muhammad should have the honor of carrying the American flag.

Muhammed, who is from Maplewood, N.J., is the first Olympic competitor for the U.S. to wear a hijab, a veil worn by Muslim women to cover the head and chest.

Olympic athletes all vote for who will carry the flag. They chose Phelps first, Muhammed second.

“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. This is at a time when we could use some more symbols of unity and togetherness,” Bell writes.

Kamau’s tone and diction indicates that he absolutely expects Phelps to comply with his request. “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,” the op-ed starts.

“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,” Kamau later writes.

Kamau contends that Americans already love Phelps, despite prior improprieties, so there is more honor in giving up the flag-holding tradition to an American Olympic competitor with an identity that is not as widely respected. (RELATED: Americans Have Grown To Like The Idea Of A Temporary Ban On Muslims)

“We even forgave that youthful indiscretion of being photographed smoking from a water pipe of the type that is often used for smoking marijuana,” along with two other indiscretions, Kamau says.

Phelps was arrested in 2014 after driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of 0.14, substantially over the allowed limit of 0.08. That was Phelps second DUI arrest.

Kamau argues that Phelps already has everything he needs and wants in life. “And that’s why I would be proud of you for giving up your position to Ibtihaj Muhammad,” Kamau explains. “No offense, but right now America has enough tall, successful, rich white guys hogging the spotlight trying to make America great … again.”

But again, the choice of flag-bearer was left up to the athletes themselves. And they decided (by a small margin) that the honor to ceremoniously lead America into the Olympic games should go to an Olympian with 18 gold medals and 22 total medals.

Phelp’s mother Debbie told People Magazine that “He was so excited” and “I told him how proud I was of him and what an honor it was to be selected by his teammates.”

Kamau concluded, “Again, thank you for stepping aside for Ibtihaj Muhammad.”

Even though Phelps returned to his lodging earlier than other nations’ flag-bearers, he did not step aside and was still the apparent carrier for at least the beginning of the ceremony. Phelps was only the second swimmer to hold the American flag during the opening ceremonies.

The Twittersphere, as usual, contentiously debated the issue.

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