Yankees suspend using Kate Smith recording of ‘God Bless America’ while investigating racism

Posted at 9:47 AM, Apr 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-19 18:21:05-04

circa 1933: Kate Smith (1909 – 1986) the American singer who was a very popular radio performer in the 30’s and 40’s is seen with Arthur Johnston, the composer, rehearsing. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The Yankees have suspended the use of Kate Smith's recording of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch while they investigate an allegation of racism against the singer.

The New York Daily News reported Thursday there are conflicting claims about Smith's 1939 song "That's Why Darkies Were Born." The song originated in the 1931 Broadway revue "George White's Scandals," and was considered satire. It was recorded by Smith and also by Paul Robeson, who was black.

The team said in a statement: "The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information. 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."

“The Yankees, who I think need to appeal to everybody, took the right stand,” Marty Appel, a Yankees historian who has written extensively about the organization, told PIX11 News.

According to Appel, there’s a silver lining to the controversy.

“They have an opportunity to create a new tradition just as the people of Paris have an opportunity to create a new Notre Dame in their image.”

Smith died in 1986. The Yankees have used her recording of "God Bless America" and sometimes live singers during the seventh inning since the 2001 terrorist attacks. They used an organ version Wednesday and Thursday.