Following the discovery that she had sung on reportedly racist records in the 1930s, two professional sports franchises, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Yankees, have removed the use of Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” from their game presentations. But there will still be one place where Smith’s music will still be heard: the boardwalk in the Jersey Shore town of Wildwood, N.J.
The mayor of Wildwood, Ernie Troiano Jr., announced in a radio interview this week that Smith’s “God Bless America” will continue to be played on the town’s boardwalk this summer.
“I’m a small town mayor, and I look at what’s happening to the world and it’s amazing how everyone wants to rewrite history,” Troiano Jr. said on conservative radio host Dom Giordano’s show this week, per Philly Voice. “Nobody wants to allow history to be an educator or a teacher to help us improve in the future.”
He also mentioned rap lyrics and blamed political correctness for the controversy.
Smith’s version of “God Bless America” had been played during the seventh inning stretch for New York Yankees home games for the past decade. Ironically, the team began using the recording of Smith’s version after opera singer Ronan Tynan, who had been singing the song at Yankee Stadium for the several years previous, was removed after he was accused of making an anti-Semitic remark, per The New York Post. The Yankees and some other baseball teams added “God Bless America” to their games following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Flyers will no longer play Kate Smith's rendition of 'God Bless America,' after discovering that Smith had also recorded at least two songs with racist content in the '30s.https://t.co/jAZp5CJ0Gk— NPR (@NPR) April 22, 2019
The Flyers’ use of Smith’s music went back even further. The team began playing a recording of the song in 1969, and after it appeared that the team was playing better in games when it was played in the early 1970s, Smith began appearing in person to sing the song. The song was synonymous with the Flyers’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, and Smith continued to appear at Flyers’ games until her death in 1986. After that, a statue of the singer was built outside the arena – one that was taken down this week.
Smith’s family said this week that they are “appalled” at the decision to remove the statue.
“Aunt Katherine was probably one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” Smith’s niece said, per CBS Philadelphia. “She was certainly anything but a prejudice person. She loved everybody.”
Mayor Troiano, who returned to office in 2011 less than two years after he lost a recall election, passed an anti-saggy pants ordinance in 2013, per Philadelphia magazine.