American Legion launches petition to bring Kate Smith statue to Wildwood, calling removal ‘an attack on veterans’

The covered Kate Smith statue sits outside Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Friday, April 19, 2019. (David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

The covered Kate Smith statue sits outside Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Friday, April 19, 2019. (David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

An online petition is underway to move the Kate Smith statue, removed from outside the Philadelphia Flyer’s arena amid racism claims, to Wildwood.

The hockey organization also discontinued playing Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” after the resurfacing of several of her tunes, including the 1939 hit “That’s Why the Darkies Were Born.”

Smith’s likeness also appears in a 1939 ad that heavily uses the mammy caricature, one of the most well-known racist depictions of black women.

But American Legion Post 184 in Wildwood says the statue removal “is an attack on veterans who fought for this country,” alluding to Smith’s well-known performances for troops during wartimes.

“‘God Bless America’ is the most patriotic song in our county. It has become the song for the American people and for our veterans,” the petition says in part. “Kate Smith traveled over 500,000 miles in her lifetime to perform for the troops. To us, she is Miss Patriotism.”

The online petition began after Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Smith’s version of “God Bless America” would continue playing daily on the Wildwood boardwalk. The mayor later said he’d welcome the statue in Wildwood.

“American Legion Post 184 supports his decision 100%, and we are proud to be residents in a town where the mayor has integrity and endless support for veterans,” the petition states.

The petition, which does not address the racism allegations against Smith, had more than 700 supporters as of late Thursday morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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