For the last 45 years, late singer Kate Smith has served as the Philadelphia Flyers’ good luck charm, having performed her famed rendition of “God Bless America” before their victorious 1974 Stanley Cup finals game. Unfortunately, for the Flyers, it turns out that good luck charm was racist, and now Gritty must serve as the team’s only talisman.
According to The Washington Post, the Flyers have elected to remove a longstanding statue of Smith located outside their arena at the Wells Fargo Center. Why? It turns out that Smith, who died in 1986, recorded several deeply racist songs in the 1930s and ‘40s.
Per The New York Times:
In “Pickaninny Heaven,” Smith sings of a place where “great big watermelons roll around and get in your way.” “Pickaninny” is a demeaning term for a black child. In the 1933 film “Hello Everybody,” Smith sings the song to a group of black orphans listening on the radio.
“That’s Why Darkies Were Born” begins: “Someone had to pick the cotton,/ Someone had to pick the corn,/ Someone had to slave and be able to sing,/ That’s why darkies were born.”
The lyrics also include: “Sing, sing, sing when you’re weary and sing when you’re blue/ Sing, sing, that’s what you taught all the white folks to do.”
The New York Yankees were the first team to rightfully cancel Smith, recently pulling the singer’s 1939 recording of “God Bless America” from its scheduled spot in the seventh-inning stretch. And the Flyers followed suit, announcing in a statement that they were axing both the statue and their own regularly-played recording of Smith’s “God Bless America”:
[I]n 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...
...While Kate Smith’s performance of “God Bless America” cannot be erased from its place in Flyers history, that rendition will no longer be featured in our game presentations. 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 of our arena.
Smith’s family members are reportedly “heartbroken” that the sports teams are cutting her out, but probably not as heartbroken as the orphans forced to listen to her sing about cotton-picking, so.