What to Know
- The Flyers removed a statue of singer Kate Smith amid claims that several of her songs were racist.
- Her rendition has been part of Flyers history since 1969 when the team first played her song ahead of a game.
- The Yankees announced they will stop using her song, as well
Days after it was first covered with black cloth and bound by rope, the iconic Kate Smith statue outside XFINITY Live! has come down.
The Flyers removed the statue over the weekend and will no longer use her rendition of "God Bless America" amid allegations that some of Smith's past lyrics were racist.
"The NHL principle 'Hockey is for Everyone' is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for," team President Paul Holmgren said in a statement. "As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today."
In partnership with NBC Sports Philadelphia
In the same statement, the team acknowledged its "long and popular relationship" with Smith's rendition of "God Bless America," but, it said, "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's version of "God Bless America" had been part of Flyers lore since 1969 when the team started playing her song before games. At the time, Americans were divided over the Vietnam War and people seemed uneasy hearing "God Bless America," former Flyers vice president of business operations Lou Scheinfeld told NBC Sports Philadelphia in 2016.
He stumbled on her recording while rummaging through a music store on South Street and thought perhaps Smith could work some magic on the audience.
The first time her song played, the Flyers won. And kept winning.
In 1973, Smith, whose extended relatives lived in Philadelphia, performed "God Bless America" live. The Flyers won that game, also. Smith would appear live at the Spectrum four times, including the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 6 against Boston in 1974.
Ever since, she has been considered somewhat of a good luck charm.
But on Thursday, the New York Yankees suspended the use of her recording while they investigate Smith's past, including her 1939 song "That's Why Darkies Were Born." The song originated in the 1931 Broadway revue "George White's Scandals," and was considered satire. It was recorded by Smith and also by Paul Robeson, who was black.
Smith's song is the latest symbol in an ongoing culture war over controversial historical icons. Last year, a statue of Philadelphia former mayor and police chief Frank Rizzo ignited protests between people critical of his strong-arm tactics and residents who wanted to honor his memory.
Last month, Dallas City Council voted to remove a Confederate monument from a local cemetery.
That vote came just weeks after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam refused mounting calls for his resignation after a photo surfaced on his yearbook page showing people in blackface and a KKK robe, stressing that he "truly" doesn't believe he was in the picture.