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Yankees drop Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America’ after being told about her racist songs

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Yankees drop Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America’ after being told about her racist songs

The strains of Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” no longer echo throughout Yankee Stadium during the seventh-inning stretch because of hints of racism in the late singer’s past.

This season, the Yankees replaced Smith’s recorded rendition, one they had used for 18 years, with other versions of the song. According to a report Thursday in the New York Daily News, the change was made after Yankees officials were alerted that Smith previously sang songs with racist lyrics. 

Smith, who died in 1986, is best known in the sports world as a good-luck charm for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers — as her singing of “God Bless America” before games frequently coincided with Flyers victories. 

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However, Smith had a controversial top-20 hit in 1931 titled “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” and endorsed the Mammy Doll in 1939, which the Daily News says was based on a racist caricature of a black woman. She also sang and appeared in a video for the jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which contains racist lyrics and imagery. 

“The Yankees have been aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman told the Daily News. “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.”

After the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Yankees began playing “God Bless America” — with Smith’s version being the most prominent — during the seventh-inning stretch. In 2009, the team halted appearances by singer Ronan Tynan after he allegedly made an anti-Semitic joke. 

Follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner

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