The New York Yankees of Major League Baseball and the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League have ended their tradition of playing Kate Smith’s legendary rendition of “God Bless America” over what has been described as “possible racism.”
The playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch became a tradition in baseball after the September 11 attacks. The Yankees had their own tradition of playing a recording of Kate Smith’s version.
The recording was pulled prior to the start of the season after the Yankees said they were made aware of Smith’s possible history of racist behavior. A different version of “God Bless America” now plays during games. The Yankees revealed the reason why this week.
The Flyers have an even longer history involving Kate Smith. In 1974, she performed the song before the Flyers game in which they won the Stanley Cup. Smith’s rendition then became a team tradition, and a statue of the singer was erected in front of the team’s stadium, the Spectrum.
After the Flyers learned of the allegations of racism, they too pulled the song from playing during games on special occasions, and on Friday, they covered the statue outside of the Spectrum.
The New York Daily News reported that in the 1930s, Kate Smith recorded a number of racially insensitive songs, including one called “Pickaninny Heaven,” which included lyrics about black children loving watermelons. She also recorded a song called “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” and endorsed a “mammy doll” in 1939.
“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 baseball team announced. “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.”
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