It’s been more than three months since she was last spotted. So where exactly is Kate Smith?
The Flyers removed the bronze statue of the singer from outside Xfinity Live! in April and stopped playing her version of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America" at the Wells Fargo Center amid controversy over racist song lyrics from the 1930s that the team said did “not reflect [its] values as an organization.”
The Flyers haven’t disclosed their plans for the statue, prompting speculation — and some offers. During a recent radio program, Steve Kalafer, owner of the Somerset Patriots, an unaffiliated pro baseball team that plays in an independent league, made a $5,000 offer to whoever can find the statue.
Kalafer offered to purchase the 8-foot-tall statue from the Flyers in May, sending a $50,000 check to be designated to a “social justice” charity of Comcast Spectacor’s choosing in exchange for the statue, which would be placed outside TD Bank Ballpark. He said he has not heard back.
“It’s just disgraceful that we live in a world where these large companies would rather dishonor and disband a tradition than question something,” he said. “It’s disturbing, and it’s un-American.”
He’s not the only one. Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. previously told 6ABC that the Shore town, where Smith’s version of the song plays on the boardwalk, would be “interested in having it.”
An official in Lake Placid, N.Y., where Smith is buried, expressed a similar desire.
“The statue has been placed in a secure location,” the Flyers said in a statement this week, and would not comment on further questions. “We have not determined any future plans.”
A look back
Marc Mellon, the sculpture’s artist, said the Flyers haven’t been in touch regarding his work’s fate. He said he believes the organization “responded to real, heartfelt upset [by] those who wanted the statue removed.”
Mellon stressed the need for more conversation around the issue.
“There’s such raw feelings across the board.... If we could fix this, maybe we could fix some larger issues,” he said. “And the fixing doesn’t mean just putting the statue up somewhere else.”
The Flyers’ move followed the New York Yankees’ decision to stop playing the 1939 version of “God Bless America" after it was alerted of the other songs’ lyrics, the New York Times reported.
Recent outcry surrounded the lyrics to songs Smith sang in the 1930s, including her recording of “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” and her singing of “Pickaninny Heaven” in the 1933 film Hello, Everybody!
Smith died in 1986 at age 79.
Her version of “God Bless America” became a good-luck charm for the Flyers, and she performed it ahead of the team’s first Stanley Cup win. Her statue was placed outside the Spectrum in 1987 and moved to outside Xfinity Live! after the Spectrum was demolished in 2011.
Taking a poll
The issue is larger than Smith’s statue, representing a broader discussion on how to confront the past. It has similarities to the controversy the statue and mural of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank L. Rizzo stirred after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, which sparked a national conversation about monuments.
The Inquirer asked readers in April what the fate of the statue should be, from reinstating it to melting it down. The majority of people who voted want the Flyers to put Smith back.
Vote for yourself and see the full results below: