April 22, 2019
In the wake of the controversy over the legacy of singer Kate Smith, Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Monday he will not stop playing her rendition of "God Bless America" on the Wildwood Boardwalk.
Troiano Jr. appeared on the Dom Giordano Show on 1210 WPHT Monday morning to discuss the fallout of the New York Yankees' and Philadelphia Flyers' decisions to end their associations with Smith.
The two professional sports teams, which had a tradition of playing Smith's "God Bless America" at their home venues, decided to distance themselves from singer because of other songs in her discography containing racial epithets.
In South Philadelphia, the Flyers removed a statue of Smith, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982.
“I’m a small town mayor, and I look at what’s happening to the world and it’s amazing how everyone wants to rewrite history," Troiano Jr. said. "Nobody wants to allow history to be an educator or a teacher to help us improve in the future."
Calling the song patriotic, Troiano Jr. added that the sudden maligning of Smith sets a dangerous precedent.
"We’re going to change history. What we don’t like, we’re going to just erase," Troiano Jr. said. "It’s whoever’s offended at that time is the one that’s pushing the issues.”
The mayor echoed other critics who have pointed out that one of the controversial songs in question, "That's Why Darkies Were Born," was a satirical Broadway piece co-performed by Paul Robeson, a prominent African-American entertainer and athlete. He questioned why some rap music hasn't been banned for some of its derogatory references to women.
"We have no intentions of removing ('God Bless America')," Troiano Jr. said. "It's not a statement that we don't understand what's going on, or we're ignorant to the history and all that. We understand the history, but the world's gotten so politically correct and so afraid that they're going to offend somebody ... well, you know what? The song is greater than anything, so it will continue to play in Wildwood."
The Flyers said in a statement that the organization's decision was a reflection of changing times and the principle that hockey is for everyone.
Family members of Smith, who died in 1986, have said they are "appalled" by the Flyers' decision to take down the statue.
Troiano Jr. suggested that those who are easily offended learn to "get over it."
"Learn from your mistakes and move forward," Troiano Jr. said.