The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Yankees may have turned their collective backs on Kate Smith, but the Jersey Shore town of Wildwood has not.
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. told a Philadelphia radio station Monday that the singer's rendition of "God Bless America" will continue to be played every day at 11 a.m. on the town's boardwalk.
"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 told WPHT-AM. "Nobody wants to allow history to be an educator and a teacher to help us improve in the future ... The song is greater than anything, so you know what; it’ll continue to play in Wildwood."
On Sunday, the Flyers removed a statue of Smith from outside the NHL team's arena two days after covering it with a black sheet amid controversy over several of Smith's songs – including a 1939 tune "That's Why the Darkies Were Born." The song originated in the 1931 Broadway revue "George White's Scandals," and was considered satire at the time. The song was also recorded by Paul Robeson, who was black, in addition to Smith.
Smith's likeness also appeared in a 1939 ad that heavily used the mammy caricature, one of the most well-known racist depictions of black women.
The association between Smith and the Flyers dated back to 1969 when a team executive ordered her version of "God Bless America" to be played instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Smith performed the song several times in person before games at the height of the team's success in the 1970s and the club erected a statue of her outside the Spectrum in 1987, a year after her death.
"The NHL principle 'Hockey is for Everyone' is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for," Flyers President Paul Holmgren said in a statement Sunday. "As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today."
On Friday, the team said Smith's recording of "God Bless America" had been removed from its library.
The Yankees stopped using Smith's recording of "God Bless America" last week after the controversy broke. The franchise had started playing the song during the seventh-inning stretch of every home game following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, at the insistence of late owner George Steinbrenner. In addition to Smith's recording, the Yankees have used live singers on occasion. An organ version of the song was used following the removal of Smith's recording.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.