Philadelphia Flyers remove statue of late singer Kate Smith

Kate Smith performs

The bronze statue of the late singer Kate Smith has been removed from outside Philadelphia's Xfinity Live! as the Flyers looked into racist lyrics she sang.

Relatives of Smith, who died in 1986, have said they're "heartbroken" that the Flyers and the New York Yankees have distanced themselves from the late singer following the controversy.

The team covered up the Smith statue last week with thick black cloth held in place with rope.

The New York Daily News reported the Yankees were ditching the song after learning of the "potential racism" of Smith, who recorded the song in 1939. The song originated in the 1931 Broadway revue "George White's Scandals" and was considered satire, but it includes racist language.

Additionally, the Flyers will no longer play Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" at games. A spokesman for the Flyers told NBC 10 in Philadelphia on Friday, "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 Kate Smith statue was erected in 1987 outside the Flyers' former stadium and moved to its new stadium around 2011. Flyers officials said Friday they also plan to remove Smith's recording of "God Bless America" from their library. "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".

Since 1969, the Flyers had played Smith's version of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" before must-win games, where it proved to be just the inspiration needed.

"The NHL principle "Hockey is for Everyone" is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for", Flyers President Paul Holmgren said in the statement.

The team followed that move by removing the statue altogether, saying in a ratioed Twitter statement - in which responses outnumber likes - that "we can not stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today".

Smith's family responded on Sunday after the Flyers removed the statue, criticizing the team for the move.

Another of Smith's songs was "That's Why Darkies Were Born", which is also racist.

In a statement, the Yankees said they had "been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and chose to immediately and carefully review this new information". In his remarks, Reagan said: "It's been truly said that one of the most inspiring things our G.I.s in World War II, Europe, and the Pacific, and later in Korea and Vietnam, ever heard was the voice of Kate Smith - and the same is true for all of us".

"God Bless America" plays at 11 a.m. daily on the Wildwood boardwalk. "The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously". She performed her rendition in person before the team captured its Stanley Cup in 1974. "And my heart goes out to them, too".

Another is her 1933 recording, "Pickaninny Heaven", which asks "colored children" living in an orphanage to dream about a magical place of "great big watermelons".

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