Kate Smith: New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers drop singer's rendition of God Bless America amid racism accusations
A Yankees spokesman told the New York Daily News on Thursday that the club, which typically plays the song during the seventh inning stretch, takes “social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously” and is “erring on the side of sensitivity”.
Flyers officials said on Friday they also plan to remove Smith’s “God Bless America” recording from their library. They say several other songs performed by Smith “contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organisation”.
The Flyers are covering a statue of Smith outside their arena, following the Yankees in cutting ties and looking into allegations of racism against the 1930s star.
The claims are related to several of Smith’s songs, including the 1939 “That’s Why the Darkies Were Born”, which originated in the 1931 Broadway revue George White’s Scandals. That song and “Pickaninny Heaven”, which is also part of Smith’s repertoire, both have demeaning lyrics towards people of colour.
Smith’s likeness also appears in a 1939 ad that heavily uses the mammy caricature, one of the most well-known racist depictions of black women.
The singer died in 1986.
Her connection with the Flyers started in 1969, when a team executive ordered her version of “God Bless America” to be played instead of “The Star Spangled Banner”. That led to her performing the song several times before games in the 1970s.
The Yankees have used her recording of “God Bless America” and sometimes live singers during the seventh inning since the 11 September, 2001, terrorist attacks. They have used her version twice this season and have mostly played an organ version.
Additional reporting by agencies