The Philadelphia Flyers have joined the New York Yankees in the removal of ties to singer Kate Smith, whose famous rendition of “God Bless America” was played at both Flyers and Yankees games.
Earlier this week, the Yankees decided to suspend the use of Smith’s rendition, which was played during the seventh-inning stretch, while they investigated allegations of racism against the later singer.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, there are conflicting claims about Smith’s 1939 song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” which
originated in the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals” and was considered satire but includes racist language, including the line;
“Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”
The song was recorded by Smith and Paul Robeson, who was black.
The Flyers put out the following statement on Sunday (h/t ESPN):
“The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation.
“But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”
Smith, who was popular during the WWII era, recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among various other treats.
Smith also endorsed the “Mammy Doll” back in 1939 which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman similar to Aunt Jemima.
“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman said. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”
The odds aren’t good that Smith’s songs will return to their prominent places during sporting events such as they were with the Yankees and the Flyers.
There is a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to racism in sports, and weeding out songs attached to artists with questionable, and controversial, backgrounds such as Smith’s, is important in pushing forward towards the future.