Flyers cut ties with Kate Smith, remove statue outside stadium

Flyers cut ties with Kate Smith, remove statue outside stadium

National Hockey League team the Philadelphia Flyers have officially removed a statue of singer Kate Smith outside their stadium, after the team's management said they learnt that some of her songs contained "racist lyrics and sentiments". The contralto's version of the song has been the quintessential version for decades.

The decision follows allegations of racism in connection with some of Smith's songs, including a 1939 tune called "That's Why the Darkies Were Born" and "Pickaninnies' Heaven" from the early 1930s. Her statue was erected outside the Spectrum in 1987 and moved to the Xfinity Live! entertainment complex in 2011.

Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" had always been considered a good-luck charm for the Flyers, who adopted it in the 1960s.

"God Bless America" played a big role in the team's history, with Smith herself singing the song at the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals in Philadelphia in 2010. It seemed the team won more often when the song was played before a game. A spokesman for the Flyers told NBC 10 in Philadelphia on Friday, "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 decisions come amid growing recognition that other songs performed by Smith, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982, are racist.

CBS Philadelphia reports that the statue was initially covered with a black drape before it was fully removed.

The Yankees had played the Smith recording of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch since shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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.

The team followed that move by removing the statue altogether, saying in a ratioed Twitter statement - in which responses outnumber likes - that "we can not stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today". "And to ensure the sentiments stirred this week are no longer echoed, earlier today we completed the removal of the Kate Smith statue from its former location outside our arena".

Smith's 1931 song "That's Why Darkies Were Born" was at the heart of the current controversy.

According to the right-leaning Washington Examiner, the lyrics are racist but the song may have been satirical.

"If 'That's Why Darkies Were Born, ' isn't satire, the lyrics are inexcusable".

Smith's family responded on Sunday after the Flyers removed the statue, criticizing the team for the move. Her niece, Suzy Andron, and her husband, Bob, said they were shocked to see stories casting her as racist.

"I'm a small town mayor, and I look at what's happening to the world, and it's unbelievable how everyone wants to rewrite history", Troiano Jr. said.

He told Trevelise he understands cultural mores were different when Smith's recordings were made, "but it's not 1939 and that song is being played to all sorts of people of race color and creed at Yankee Stadium in 2019, so I certainly understand why the Yankees did what they did".

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