A New Culture War in Sports
Will Leitch, in his weekly New York Magazine column, talks about how Sports now has its very own “Confederate Monuments” controversy. Apparently, singer Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” will no longer be played at Philadelphia Flyers games because recordings surfaced of her singing “racially insensitive songs” with titles like “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” and “Pickaninny Heaven.” Her statue outside the arena will also be removed.
Leitch outlines other statue controversies over the years and the list is long. From Joe Paterno to George Steinbrenner to O.J. Simpson, there are plenty of opportunities to grapple with sports icons with problematic pasts.
The entire foundation of American sports is built on the back on racism and sexism and loathsome behavior. If you wanted to watch gentlemen on Sunday, you’d go to church, but the sinners, they provide more entertainment bang for your buck. To see sports starting to reckon with the problematic nature of so many of their old symbols and icons is actually sort of encouraging, even if it’s so far rather empty and ineffectual.
The inconsistency of ejecting Kate Smith from sports and letting other icons like Steinbrenner stand isn’t a reason to reverse course and bring back Kate Smith. It’s a reason to go after Steinbrenner, and all the rest of them. Maybe that’s exactly what they’re most worried about.
I won’t be holding my breath.