The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Sunday that a statue of Kate Smith has been removed from outside their arena amid controversy surrounding Smith’s allegedly racist songs. Now her family, who say they were left “heartbroken” by the news, are defending the late singer.
“[I’m] saddened that a woman who has been dead for almost 35 years would be attacked in this way,” Smith’s niece, Suzy Andron, told USA Today. “Aunt Kathryn really did not see color. She didn’t see a person’s color… And this is why I’m incredibly sad.”
Smith, who passed away in 1989 at the age of 79 due to brain damage, was best known for her rendition of “God Bless America,” which the Flyers also said they will no longer be playing at the Wells Fargo Center. And the NHL team isn’t the only one boycotting Smith’s song—the New York Yankees first announced last week that they will be removing the tune from their seventh-inning stretch playlist.
The sudden turn against Smith occurred after the discovery that two of her songs contain racist lyrics about African Americans: “Pickaninny Heaven” from 1933 and “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in 1931.
But Smith’s family is standing by their beloved aunt. Suzy Andron’s husband, Bob, told USA Today, “It’s somebody who found the words to two songs that she sang, out of 3,000 that she recorded, and tried to make a case out of it.”
He went on to say, “My heart goes out to them, too. Because they’re misguided. They don’t understand what kind of a person Kate Smith was.”
Explaining that Smith, who received the Presidential Medal of Honor from Ronald Reagan in 1982, didn’t write the lyrics to the controversial songs, Bob said, “People can connect dots in different ways. These folks — whoever they were, bless them. They connected the wrong dots.”