SALT LAKE CITY — Last week, the New York Yankees announced plans to stop playing Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” due to the discovery of potentially racist lyrics in the artist’s other songs.
In a statement released to CNN last week, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers announced that they would also stop playing Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” and the Flyers have since removed a statue erected in Smith’s honor outside of their arena.
Now some of Smith’s family members are speaking out.
“I’m appalled,” Smith’s niece Suzy Andron told CBS Philadelphia Sunday. “Aunt Katherine was probably one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” Andron said. “She was certainly anything but a prejudice(d) person. She loved everybody.”
Smith’s family said they had no idea the Flyers had removed Smith’s statue until they learned about it on Eyewitness News Sunday, according to CBS.
Smith became the subject of debate in the sports world this month after lyrics from some of her previous songs were brought to the attention of sports leagues that have played her version of “God Bless America” at games for years, which I wrote about for the Deseret News.
One of Smith’s older songs titled “Pickaninny Heaven” is directed at “colored children” and tells them about a place they can look forward to where “great big watermelons” grow, according to multiple reports.
The Yankees had been investigating claims that the songs were racist, including the narrative surrounding the song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which was considered a satire at the time it was recorded, the Daily News reported.
In a statement released to the press Sunday, the Flyers 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.”
“While Kate Smith’s performance of ‘God Bless America’ cannot be erased from its place in Flyers history,” the Flyers added, “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.”
Andron insisted that neither her aunt nor her songs were racist and that it’s unfair for the Flyers to react so quickly, according to CBS.
“I think you need to go back and look back at your own history and what Aunt Katherine gave to that team,” Andron told CBS.
Smith’s family says the Flyers should rethink their decision.
“We need the words and the song of ‘God Bless America’ singing loud again,” Suzy’s husband Bob Andron told CBS.