Wildwood Wants Kate Smith Statue; Toms River Mayor Slams Political Correctness
The decision by the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers to stop using Kate Smith's recording of "God Bless America" during their games because of racist lyrics in songs she performed in the 1930s has not been met with universal support.
The mayors of Wildwood and Toms River are supporting the singer's legacy.
The Flyers, who took down a statue of the iconic singer who was considered the team's "good luck charm," also removed her song from the Wells Fargo Center playlist. The Yankees no longer play her song during the 7th inning stretch, a tradition since 9/11.
Westwood Mayor Ernie Troiano says the statue is welcome in his community.
The mayor said he was inspired by a Facebook poll that overwhelmingly supported the Wildwood boardwalk serving as the statue's new home.
"Sure, why not? We're keeping her song. We're not throwing the song away," Troiano said. He also talked to veterans who warned him against removing the song.
"I understand the controversy. I understand it was 88 years ago. I understand there was a different thought pattern back then. Do we allow that to happen today? No. 'God Bless America' is important to us because it's part of our boardwalk," Troiano said, adding that playing another artist's version would be like giving Babe Ruth a different number.
"We don't want to rewrite history. We don't want to bury history. We want to learn from history," Troiano said.
The mayor said he researched Smith and found she traveled 520,000 miles entertaining U.S. troops during World War II. She raised $600 million for war bonds, which in today's dollars would be $10 billion. Later she hosted a TV show on CBS in 1960 that gave young black artists the chance to sing. Smith died in 1986.
A spokesman for the Flyers did not respond to a message asking if the team would consider moving the statue to Wildwood and where the statue is being kept since its removal.
Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher during Tuesday night's meeting spoke in support of Smith, calling the controversy "political correctness the the Nth degree."
"I have to ask out loud: When is it going ever going to stop in this country? She's such an icon in this country," Kelaher said Tuesday.
Kelaher told us that he remembers being 6 years old and hearing her sing the song during the World War II years. He said it was "inspiring and moving."
He remembered a "great spirit of patriotism" present in the country and that moviegoers stood up and sang along when it was played before the film.
"It was just such a part of our life, I can't believe they would do this now."