The New York Yankees have decided to no longer play a 1939 version of God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch, due to concerns raised over other racist songs the performer sang in the past.
Over the last 18 years, the Yankees have played Kate Smith’s rendition of God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch. However, this season the Yankees stopped playing that version and began playing other versions. The reason, the Daily News reports, is because the Yankees learned that Smith had also sung several racist songs in the past.
According to the Daily News:
Smith was a famous singer before and during WWII who recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among other treats. She shot a video for that song that takes place in an orphanage for black children, and much of the imagery is startlingly racist. She also recorded, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which included the lyrics, “Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”
Smith, who died in 1986, endorsed the “Mammy Doll” in 1939, which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman in the same vein as Aunt Jemima.
The Yankees are investigating these claims and there are some conflicting notions regarding the song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” in particular, because it was considered satire at the time and recorded with African-American artist Paul Robeson. Still, her shocking lyrics from 1939 are neither humorous nor ironic in 2019 — and the Yankees acted swiftly.
The Yankees released a statement on their decision to ditch the song:
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 regular playing of God Bless America became a staple at Yankees games following the attacks of September 11th.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn