A New Jersey Shore town is sticking by the late singer Kate Smith, even as the Flyers and the New York Yankees have distanced themselves from her over questions about racist lyrics from more than 80 years ago.
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano said his town would continue to play Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” every morning along the boardwalk throughout the summer.
“It’s an Irving Berlin patriotic song that has nothing to do with anything other than America,” Troiano told WPHT’s Dom Giordano on Monday. “I can assure you that my conversation with the mayor of North Wildwood, Patrick Rosenello, is, we have no intentions of removing it.”
“That’s not a statement that we don’t understand what’s going on, and we’re ignorant to the history and all that. … We understand the history,” Troiano added. “But the world’s gotten so politically correct and so afraid that they’re going to offend somebody. … The song is greater than anything. So you know what? It’ll continue to play in Wildwood.”
It’s long been a tradition along the Wildwood boardwalk for “God Bless America” and the national anthem to play at 11 a.m. daily during the summer.
On Sunday, the Flyers removed Smith’s bronze statue from outside Xfinity Live! and announced it would no longer play the singer’s 1939 rendition of “God Bless America” before games, citing songs she sang in the early 1930s that contained “lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes."
The organization had covered the statue Friday while it said it was reviewing the singer’s work, and it’s not clear what happened to the statue after it was removed.
“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,” the Flyers said in a statement.
The team has not elaborated on its decision, and a former Flyers vice president called the decision to cover up and then remove the statue a “knee-jerk reaction.” Many fans and former players were caught off guard by the developments, including Hall of Famer Bob Clarke, who is now the club’s senior vice president and called the move “foolish.”
Meanwhile, local Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif, who is also running for City Council, welcomed the move to remove Smith’s statue, but noted he and other activists had previously expressed their anger over Smith’s work to the Flyers.
The Flyers’ move followed a decision by the Yankees to pull Smith’s 1939 version of “God Bless America,” which the team had played at Yankee Stadium in the seventh inning for 18 years.