PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers are covering a statue of singer Kate Smith outside their arena, following the New York Yankees in cutting ties and looking into allegations of racism against the 1930s star with a popular recording of “God Bless America.”
Flyers officials said 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 organization.”
The New York Daily News reported the Yankees suspending their use of Smith’s recording during the seventh-inning stretch amid conflicting claims about several of her songs, including a 1939 song “That’s Why the Darkies Were Born.” The tune originated in the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals,” and was considered satire at the time. 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.
Smith died in 1986.
Smith’s 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 Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They have used her version twice this season and have mostly played an organ version.