Philadelphia Flyers Remove Kate Smith Statue Over Allegations Of Racism

Kate Smith performs

But in the aftermath of a discovery that the singer had also recorded at least two songs with racist content in the 1930s, two major American sports teams, baseball's New York Yankees and hockey's Philadelphia Flyers, have announced that they will stop playing Smith's rendition of the Irving Berlin patriotic classic. The contralto's version of the song has been the quintessential version for decades.

The New York Daily News reported Thursday there are conflicting claims about Smith's 1939 song "That's Why Darkies Were Born".

The Kate Smith statue was erected in 1987 outside the Flyers' former stadium and moved to its new stadium around 2011.

Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" has been used by the Flyers since 1969, but will no longer be played as a result of the investigation. Smith had sung "God Bless America" live for the Flyers before Game 6 in the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals - after which the Flyers beat the Boston Bruins. That led to her performing the song several times before games in the 1970s.

"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.

Smith, whose fame peaked during World War II, once recorded a song "Pickaninny Heaven" about "colored children" who dream about a paradise full of giant watermelons.

A partially covered statue of singer Kate Smith is seen near the Wells Fargo Center, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Philadelphia. "As a result, we can not stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today".

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The Flyers enjoyed a "long and popular" relationship with Smith's "God Bless America" rendition, but the team learned in recent days that her 1930s songs "evoke painful and unacceptable themes", the statement said.

In addition to the statue's relocation, the National Hockey League team also banned the use of Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" during home games as part of measures it said were aimed at tackling racism.

Another of Smith's songs was "That's Why Darkies Were Born", which is also racist. The tune, originally written for a Broadway revue and later referenced in a Marx Brothers flick, featured lyrics such as: "Someone had to pick the cotton, Someone had to pick the corn, Someone had to slave and be able to sing, That's why darkies were born". The team added that the statue was removed "to ensure the sentiments stirred this week are no longer echoed". "Aunt Katherine was probably one of the kindest people I've ever met".

The organization previously determined to cover up the statue, only to remove it after further researching the allegations levied against Smith.

Whether the lyrics were intended as satire or not, the Yankees determined that they are insensitive and are investigating before determining whether to permanently end use of Smith's version of "God Bless America". "She was certainly anything but a prejudice [d] person".

"I think you need to go back and look back at your own history and what Aunt Katherine gave to that team", she said.

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