Singer Kate Smith, whose rendition of “God Bless America” was something a lot of U.S. kids grew up with, is at the center of a firestorm over allegations of racism.
The New York Post reports that the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers removed a statue of Smith from outside the team’s arena.
“The removal of the statue ends the team’s ‘long and popular relationship’ with Smith, whose version of ‘God Bless America’ had been part of the team’s game presentations since 1969 when a team executive ordered her rendition to be played instead of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’” The Post reports. “She later performed the song several times before games during the 1970s, including Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup final against Boston.”
Smith, who hailed from Greenville, Va., and became known as the First Lady of Radio, died in 1986 at age 79.
The Post reports that the Flyers’ decision “follows allegations of racism in connection with some of Smith’s songs, including a 1939 tune called ‘That’s Why the Darkies Were Born’ and ‘Pickaninnies’ Heaven’ from the early 1930s. Both songs include racist language and references, although the former has been claimed to be satirical.”
In a statement released Sunday, the Flyers said: “In recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”
The Flyers’ decision follows a similar decision by the New York Yankees, who pulled the plug on the team’s use of Smith’s “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch.
The Flyers’ statement added: “While Kate Smith’s performance of ‘God Bless America’ cannot be erased from its place in Flyers history, that rendition will no longer be featured in our game presentations. And to ensure the sentiments stirred this week are no longer echoed, earlier today we completed the removal of the Kate Smith statue from its former location outside of our arena.”