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Flyers cover Kate Smith statue, dump 'God Bless America' over racist songs

Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News on

Published in Hockey

PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers are scrubbing connections with famed singer Kate Smith, whose music has become linked to the NHL team's success for many fans, as the club looks into racist lyrics in several of her songs. That includes covering a bronze statue of Smith that stands outside Xfinity Live! and removing her iconic recording of "God Bless America" from the Flyers' playlist.

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

CMG Worldwide, which licenses Smith's work, did not respond to a request for comment.

Since 1969, the team has played Smith's "God Bless America" before must-win games, where it has proven to be a good luck charm. According to the Flyers, the team went 101-31-5 in games where Smith's version of the song aired, including 3-1-0 when Smith sang the song live at the Spectrum, beginning with the Flyers' 1973 home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Most memorably, Smith performed "God Bless America" in person before the team captured its first Stanley Cup in 1974. In recent years, Lauren Hart has sung a duet version of the song alongside footage of Smith.

Hart didn't respond to a request for comment.

 

The Flyers erected the statue of Smith, who died in 1986 at age 79, outside the Spectrum in 1987. After the Spectrum was demolished in early 2011, Smith's statue was moved to the parking lot of XFINITY Live!

The singer has received other accolades: The U.S. Postal Service devoted a stamp to Smith, which it unveiled outside the Spectrum in 2010 as alumni of the 1974 championship team looked on. Former President Ronald Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982.

"Kate had the personal ability to bring 18,000 people to a peak of excitement. There were times I thought the roof was going to come down," former Flyers goalkeeper Bernie Parent said in 2010. "And it was the excitement she created that brought us to a different level."

The Flyers' move comes just a day after the New York Yankees decided to pull Smith's 1939 version of "God Bless America," which the team has played at Yankee Stadium in the middle of the seventh inning for 18 years. The Yankees said in a statement they were investigating the claims of racism in some of Smith's past songs, and while the team has not yet made a final conclusion, it was "erring on the side of sensitivity."

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