Flyers and Yankees pull Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America’ over racism
The Philadelphia Flyers have cut ties with their good luck charm, famed "God Bless America" singer Kate Smith, because of a song she performed in 1939 that is considered racist.
The team adopted the singer's rendition of "God Bless America" in the late 1960s as the perception grew that the team won more when the song was played before a game. According to Flyershistory.com, the team won more than 100 games between 1969 and 2019.
The team showed its love for Smith, who died in 1986, with a statue outside their home arena, the Wells Fargo Center.
The New York Yankees, which began playing the song during the 7th inning stretch after the 9/11 attacks, announced earlier this week they were dropping the song as they looked into reports she recorded a song called "Pickaninny Heaven."
The same song, incidentally, was recorded by Paul Robeson, the black cultural icon from New Jersey. Rutgers University, which called Robeson "a pioneering scholar, athlete, renowned international entertainer, and visionary human rights advocate," this week dedicated a plaza to Robeson to commemorate his 100th birthday.
According to the New York Daily News, her song catalogue said the song was directed at "colored children" with lyrics that encouraged them to dream about "great big watermelons."
The team said in a statement: "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. 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 Flyers have followed suit according to a statement.
“We have recently become aware that several songs performed by Kate Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization. As we continue to look into this serious matter, we are removing Kate Smith’s recording of 'God Bless America’ from our library and covering up the statue that stands outside of our arena," the statement says.
According to Smith's obituary in the Los Angeles Times, the singer "traveled nearly 520,000 miles to entertain troops and sold a record $600 million in war bonds in a series of round-the-clock radio appeals. One of these, a 24-hour marathon on Feb. 1, 1944, raised a record $110 million in pledges."
The Flyers could not be reached for comment.