Philadelphia Flyers Suspend Use of Kate Smith's ‘God Bless America' Amid Allegations of Racism

Smith's rendition has been part of Flyers lore since 1969 when the team started playing her song before games.

What to Know

  • The Flyers will stop using Kate Smith's "God Bless America" 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 on Thursday they will stop using her song, as well.

It's a strange sight for any Philadelphia Flyers fan. 

On Friday morning, an iconic statue outside XFINITY Live! depicting southern singer Kate Smith was covered with black cloth and bound by rope. 

The Flyers will no longer use her rendition of "God Bless America" amid allegations that some of Smith's past lyrics were racist.

Kate Smith

“We have recently become aware that several songs performed by Kate Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization," a Flyers spokesman said.

"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.”

Smith's rendition has 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.

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Singer Kate Smith is seen on the screen before Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center on June 9, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

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 cemetary.

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.

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