For 18 years the New York Yankees have been playing Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. They have recently banned the song due to her singing some purported racially insensitive songs 80 years ago. The hockey team, Philadelphia Flyers, have done the same and even covered a statute of Ms Smith that has stood in front of their arena since 1987. The songs apparently had racist stereotypes of the time in the same view as “Aunt Jemima”. Many of the offending songs were sung as satire and not meant to be overtly racist with some even sung along with African-American artists.
Kate Smith’s family is heartbroken over the team’s distancing from her. Her niece, who helped take care of Ms Smith before she died, stated that the family was “saddened that a woman who has been dead for almost 35 years would be attacked in this way. Aunt Kathryn really did not see color. She didn’t see a person’s color. She was very in tune with a person’s character.”
The ironic thing is that the New York Yankees have a racist past themselves. They long refused to sign black baseball players due to their racism. They only signed Elston Howard in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. The delay by the Yankees to integrate had led to everything from editorials to picket lines, all of which had been ignored by the Yankee’s top brass. They were one of the last Major League teams to integrate. Yankees general manager George Weiss reportedly said in 1952 that having a black ballplayer would draw undesirables to the Stadium as it would offend certain fans to have to sit next to a (insert N word here).
As a long-time Yankee fan I am sickened by their attack on Ms Smith. It is certainly unclear if Ms Smith was actually racist but certainly the biblical mantra “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” is appropriate here. If we discard every person, team, organization or statute that has a sinful past of any kind associated with them there will be none left. Ms Smith’s version of God Bless America is iconic and one of the great traditional, religious, patriotic songs that our country has produced.
If only we had more Kate Smith’s singing “God Bless America” and less self-righteous organizations like the New York Yankees, with overtly racist pasts shaming others for the same things they did, we would be a better country. If Kate Smith should not be heard due to her past, the New York Yankees should not be allowed to field a baseball team due to their past. If only we could leave Ms Smith to rest In peace and instead throw a big cover over the entire Yankee organization to hide its shame from all. The Yankees need to get the log out of their eye so they can see better to get the speck out of other’s eyes. Matthew 7:5.