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Yankees dump Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America’ from rotation over singer’s racist songs

The Yankees have taken a stand against racism for their seventh-inning stretch.

For 18 years, Yankee Stadium regularly used Kate Smith’s 1939 recording of “God Bless America” in the middle of the seventh inning. But they ditched it altogether this season, replacing Smith’s rendition with different versions of the song. Why? As the Daily News learned, the Yankees were made aware of Smith’s history of potential racism.

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 have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman said. “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.”

This isn’t the first time the Yankees pulled the plug on a potentially bigoted performer. In 2009, they cut out Ronan Tynan from his regular spot singing “God Bless America” after he allegedly made anti-Semitic remarks. Tynan later apologized for disparaging Jews, claiming he was joking.

The Yankees started playing “God Bless America” – most frequently with Smith’s version - following the 9/11 attacks. Smith was memorialized by a statue outside of the Philadelphia Flyers’ arena, where her version of “God Bless America” was regularly played before games. She was honored in 1982 by Ronald Reagan with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Even before cutting out Smith from the rotation, the Yankees were evaluating a change to their “God Bless America” experience — including more live performances on the field.

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