Philadelphia Flyers remove statue of late singer Kate Smith

The Flyers began using Smith's version of God Bless America in the 1970s, and in 1973 the singer made a surprise appearance at the game to sing the song live.

"The NHL principle "Hockey is for Everyone" is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for", said Flyers president Paul Holmgren "As a result, we can not stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today".

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".

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 song originated in the 1931 Broadway revue "George White's Scandals", and was considered satire at the time.

Smith, who died in 1986, was also questioned for promoting "Mammy Dolls" in 1939, which were dolls based on a caricature of a black woman reminiscent of the fictional character Aunt Jemima, which a PepsiCo subsidiary used to market pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods.

Smith's family is not pleased that teams have stopped playing her version of "God Bless America" or that the Philadelphia Flyers covered up her statue. According to the team, they went 101-31-5 in games where her version of the song aired.

United States hockey team the Philadelphia Flyers covered the statue of singer Kate Smith outside after the New York Yankees also cut ties with "God Bless America".

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The Kate Smith statue was removed from outside the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday. The song was also recorded by Paul Robeson, who was black, in addition to Smith.

But on Sunday, the Flyers issued a statement disavowing Smith and saying some songs she sang in the 1930s are "incompatible with the values" of the team.

That ended with the action of one person, a Yankees fan who contacted the team about two songs recorded by Kate Smith.

Smith was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1982.

"I'm appalled", Suzy Andron, Smith's niece, told the station Sunday evening with her husband Bob Andron at her side.

The lyrics of the song start with: "Someone had to pick the cotton/Someone had to plant the corn, Someone had to slave and be able to sing/That's why darkies were born", and goes on for another four verses to end with: "Someone had to fight the Devil/Shout about Gabriel's Horn, Someone had to stoke the train, That would bring God's children to green pastures/That's why darkies were born". In the song, she urges the kids to dream about "great big watermelons" to get their minds off their troubles. The video for the song also contained racist imagery.

The New York team had been using Smith's 1939 "God Bless America" recording for the last 18 seasons, starting after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

  • Michelle Webb