Amidst scrutiny over racist lyrics in some of her songs, the Philadelphia Flyers have removed the Kate Smith statue that was located near Wells Fargo Center.
Smith’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” had become a common fixture at major sports venues, but her history with potential racism has prompted some teams to reevaluate their use of the song. Newsday reported on Thursday that MLB’s New York Yankees have suspended it from their playlist after being made aware of these concerns–which include lyrics in at least two of her songs from the 1930’s–and the Flyers have made responses of their own.
After initially deciding to cover Smith’s statue with a tarp before making a final decision, the Flyers confirmed in a statement on Sunday that the statue was removed. In addition, the team has pulled Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” from their Wells Fargo Center playlist. More from ESPN:
The Flyers released the following statement on Sunday:
“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.”
The Flyers quoted team president Paul Holmgren as saying: “The NHL principle ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for. As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today.”
The rendition of “God Bless America” by Smith–who was born in Virginia in 1908, and died in 1986–had become part of Flyers lore, being credited as a good-luck charm when it was played before must-win games. A statue depicting Smith was dedicated outside the Spectrum in 1987, but has more recently been displayed in the parking lot of the Xfinity Live! entertainment venue that serves Wells Fargo Center and the surrounding sports complex.
Smith’s legacy is coming under scrutiny due largely to the racist lyrics in two of her songs: 1931’s “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” and 1933’s “Pickaninny Heaven.” The exact intention behind the lyrics–specifically the contention that “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” was intended as satire at the time–has been debated, but their content has caused the Flyers to distance themselves from Smith.