The Philadelphia Flyers have removed a statue of late singer Kate Smith outside the National Hockey League team's arena, two days after covering it amid allegations of racism against the 1930s star with a popular recording of God Bless America. The contralto's version of the song has been the quintessential version for decades.
A fan alerted the Yankees last week that Smith had recorded at least two problematic songs: 1931's "That's Why Darkies Were Born" and 1933's "Pickaninny Heaven", from the film Hello, Everybody!, the New York Daily News reported on Thursday. A year after her death in 1986, the team erected the statue.
The Flyers began using Smith's version of God Bless America in the 1970s, and in 1973 the singer made a surprise appearance at the game to sing the song live. The Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, and Smith had been the team's good luck charm ever since. According to the Flyers, the team went 101-31-5 in games where Smith's version of the song aired, including 3-1-0 when Smith sang the song live at the Spectrum beginning with the Flyers' 1973 home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We have recently become aware that several songs performed by Kate Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization", the Flyers said in a statement. "Singer Paul Robeson, who was black, also performed the song", wrote columnist Madeline Fry.
A partially covered statue of singer Kate Smith is seen near the Wells Fargo Center, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Philadelphia.
Longtime sportswriter and commentator Jason Whitlock said those who "blackmailed" the Yankees into ending Smith's "God Bless America" are "trying to sow seeds of division and undermining American pride under the bogus pretense that they're promoting racial harmony".
The team followed that move by removing the statue altogether, saying in a ratioed Twitter statement - in which responses outnumber likes - that "we can not stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today". "As we continue to look into this serious matter, we are removing Kate Smith's recording of "God Bless America" from our library and covering up the statue that stands outside our arena".
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Troiano told Giordano he and other officials understand the history and the problems with racist lyrics in other songs. The team added that the statue was removed "to ensure the sentiments stirred this week are no longer echoed".
"That's Why Darkies Were Born" was written for a 1931 Broadway revue called "George White's Scandals", a show that featured such stars of the time as Rudy Vallee and Ethel Barrymore.
"If 'That's Why Darkies Were Born, ' isn't satire, the lyrics are inexcusable".
"I'm appalled", Suzy Andron, Smith's niece, told the station Sunday evening with her husband Bob Andron at her side. "She was certainly anything but a prejudice [d] person".
"I'm a small town mayor, and I look at what's happening to the world, and it's incredible how everyone wants to rewrite history", Troiano Jr. said.
"God Bless America" plays at 11 a.m. daily on the Wildwood boardwalk.