Flyers, Yankees cut ties with ‘God Bless America’ singer Kate Smith over allegations of racism

The Philadelphia Flyers have removed a statue of late singer Kate Smith outside the NHL team’s arena, two days after covering it amid allegations of racism against the 1930s star with a popular recording of God Bless America.

On Friday, the Flyers said Smith’s God Bless America recording had been removed from their library, following baseball’s New York Yankees.

A partially covered statue of singer Kate Smith is seen near the Wells Fargo Center, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Flyers covered the 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 recording of “God Bless America” from their library. They say several songs performed by Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization.

A television photographer records the partially covered statue of singer Kate Smith near the Wells Fargo Center, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Flyers covered the 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 recording of “God Bless America” from their library. They say several songs performed by Smith, contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization.

The covered Kate Smith statue sits outside Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Friday, April 19, 2019. The Philadelphia Flyers covered the 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.”

A concrete stand is shown on the space where the statue of Kate Smith was displayed at Xfinity Live near the sports stadiums in South Philadelphia. Sunday, April 21, 2019. The Philadelphia Flyers have removed a statue of late singer Kate Smith outside NHL team’s arena, two days after covering it amid allegations of racism against the 1930s star with a popular recording of “God Bless America.” On Friday, the Flyers said Smith’s “God Bless America” recording had been removed from their library, following baseball’s New York Yankees.

The Flyers released a statement Sunday explaining the club’s reasoning for ending its relationship with the previously celebrated singer.

“The NHL principle ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for,” Flyers President Paul Holmgren said in the statement. “As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today.”

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The Yankees suspended 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’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. A year after her 1986 death, the team erected the statue.

-With a file from Global News.

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