The famed New York baseball team, The Yankees, have suspended the use of late singer Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” while they investigate allegations of racism against Smith.
Smith’s version of the track, recorded in 1939, has been used in the seventh inning of Yankee games since the 2001 terrorist attacks.The New York Daily News reported that fans were outraged upon a recent unearthing of some of Smith’s past tracks, including an offensive WWII era jingle entitled “Pickaninny Heaven,” which sung of “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons.” Smith also shot a video for the song, which took place in an orphanage for Black children.
Another blatantly offensive song Smith was well known for was “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.” The song is originally from the 1931 Broadway show George White’s Scandals. However, there have been claims that the track, recorded by Smith and Paul Robeson – a Black musician – was actually satire.
Smith also endorsed a children’s toy called the “Mammy Doll” in the same year she recorded the well known American sports anthem, according to New York Daily News.
Along with suspending the use of her track, the team released an official statement to fans:
“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 team said in a statement obtained by The Wrap. “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.”
In the meantime, the team has opted to use an organ version of “God Bless America,” instead while the claims against Smith are investigated.
Along with Smith’s song being temporarily banned from games, the Philadelphia Flyers have covered a statue of the late songstress outside their arena. Flyers’ officials also plan to remove Smith’s “God Bless America” recording from their library.
Smith passed away in 1986.