The Yankees have been playing Kate Smith's version of "God Bless America" since 9/11. She had recorded her version in 1939, and had been one of the more popular versions of the song. I remember various Yankee announcers talking about how it was one of George Steinbrenner's favorites, and I always thought the somewhat bombastic delivery of Smith matched the big loud in-your-face style of Mr. Steinbrenner.

Most teams don't play "God Bless America" every single game like the Yanks do, and most TV networks don't skip commercials to stay with the song during the 7th inning stretch. As I've watched Yankee games this season, I noticed they weren't playing Smith's version, instead going with a straight instrumental by the stadium's organist.

I hadn't really put any thought to it until this weekend when stories spread across the internet about Kate Smith's history of racist songs from the 1930s.

A team spokesman said

The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information. The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.

kate smith
Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

I was unaware that the Philadelphia Flyers also used Smith's version, and actually had her perform the song live enough times to warrant having a statue of the singer outside their arena (which was brought down this weekend).

Flyers' President Paul Holmgren said

The NHL principle ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for. As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today. 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.

I know that everyone is up in arms screaming about "PC culture" and whatever, but I'm actually okay with this. This isn't 'revisionist history', it's just making a change based on where society is. Kate Smith was just a product of her time; in the 30s it was acceptable to sing songs like "Pickaninny Heaven" and "That’s Why Darkies Were Born", which, holy hell, are crazy racist titles with even looking into the lyrics.

I don't understand the type of person that gets upset over this removal either. It's the Yankees and Flyers decision to make, and it has literally no bearing on your day-to-day life.

Everyone likes to yell at corporations when they sit on their hands and hope a controversy just goes away on its own, and now when a team actually takes action, they face the same backlash.

[via Deadspin]

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