By Mary Cunningham

The Flyers have thrown Kate Smith under the bus, but Wildwood is sticking with the singer!

Smith’s famous version of “God Bless America’’ is a daily ritual in Wildwood a beloved local tradition. But it has now come under scrutiny after recent revelations that Smith’s recording catalog featured racist songs.

Nevertheless, the town’s mayor, Ernie Troiano Jr., insists that Wildwood had no plans to silence Smith.

“It is one of the most patriotic songs that was ever recorded,” Troiano said. “Why would I want to change tradition?”

The mayor’s stance differed from recent decisions by the New York Yankees and Flyers to stop playing Smith’s version of the song at their games after each team learned about the offensive songs, which were recorded in the 1930s.

Troiano’s spirited defense of preserving his town’s custom has placed Wildwood in the middle of a national cultural debate about political correctness and how America should reckon with its racist past.

“People obviously can change throughout their lives and have different viewpoints,” said Safeer Quraishi, the administrative director of the New Jersey chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “But it should not be lost on anyone that she went out of her way to record a few songs that had racist overtones.”

Smith, who died in 1986, was one of the most popular singers of her time. She recorded almost 3,000 songs during her career, according to her obituary in The New York Times, but was most closely associated with “God Bless America.”

The song was written by Irving Berlin during World War I but was first performed by Smith on her radio show in 1938. Her recording became so popular that it practically was an unofficial second national anthem.

Starting in 1969, the Flyers began playing Smith’s “God Bless America,” substituting it for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games.

Smith also performed the song live at many Flyers games, including the one in which the team won its first Stanley Cup in 1974. Her association with the team became so strong that the Flyers erected a statue of the singer in front of their arena in 1987.

But beyond “God Bless America,” Smith’s recording library was extensive. Like many white singers of her time, she sang songs that most modern-day listeners would find offensive. Those included two songs with titles and lyrics that demean black people, “Pickaninny Heaven” and “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which was also recorded by the African-American singer and activist Paul Robeson.

After a fan alerted the Yankees to the songs, the team said it would stop playing Smith’s version of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. The Flyers followed suit, saying the songs were incompatible with the team’s values. The team also removed Smith’s statue outside its arena, though officials would not say where they took it.

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