Kate Smith performs "God Bless America" before a Philadelphia Flyers hockey game during the 1970s. (Associated Press)
The family of “God Bless America” singer Kate Smith is reportedly “heartbroken” by the news that two professional sports teams recently decided to stop playing the singer’s iconic recording of the patriotic Irving Berlin song at their games.
Baseball’s New York Yankees and hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers announced the moves last week, reportedly after learning that Smith – who died in 1986 at age 79 – had recorded songs containing racist lyrics and appeared in an ad that included racist imagery.
A statue of Smith at Philadelphia’s sports complex was covered in a black cloth after the Flyers made their decision.
But a niece of the famous singer claimed Saturday that the two sports teams had gotten the story wrong about Smith.
“Aunt Kathryn really did not see color,” Suzy Andron told USA Today on Saturday. “She didn't see a person's color. She was very in tune with a person's character. I've always thought that was a model, to not see a person's color but to see their character. And this is why I'm incredibly sad.”
"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."
— Suzy Andron, niece of Kate Smith
Andron told the paper she was upset “that a woman who has been dead for almost 35 years would be attacked in this way."
She and her husband, Bob, also noted that Smith had helped raise millions of dollars for the U.S. military effort during World War II. They said they hoped that fans of Smith would continue to sing “God Bless America,” even if not accompanied by Smith’s iconic 1930s recording of the song.
A decade ago, the Yankees cut ties with singer Ronan Tynan, who had performed “God Bless America” for the team after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, because Tynan was alleged to have made anti-Semitic comments.