Skip to content

What It Was Like Working for Starter in the 1980s and ’90s

Click to enlarge

Twenty years ago today — April 19, 1999 — the sportswear brand Starter filed for bankruptcy, bringing an end to a storied retail and on-field brand.

As it happens, Uni Watch reader Kurt Evans (that’s him in the photo above, showing off Starter’s NFL sideline caps in 1998) was working for Starter at the time. Just as reader Dave Bloomquist recently told us what it was like to work for Twins Enterprise (the precursor of ’47 Brand), Kurt’s going to tell us a bit about his time with Starter. He’s provided photos of some of his T-shirt designs, including a few phantom shirts for games or titles that never happened, which I’ve sprinkled throughout the piece. For most of them, you can click to enlarge.

Take it away, Kurt.

Starting with Starter
By Kurt Evans

As an art major at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven in the mid-1980s, I knew I wouldn’t be long for the conventional design world. I was a pro sports fanatic and the sportswear juggernaut Starter was headquartered right there in New Haven. That was too much of a coincidence for me — I worshipped the place, and I knew I had to be employed there.

After relentless nagging, I was fortunate enough to be hired in September of 1987, when I was still in school, as Starter’s first and only intern. My job was to mix and match the ink to team logo colors to be screened on the sew-on wristband appliqués for NFL, MLB, and NBA players.

Following my December ’87 graduation, I was hired full-time in Starter’s two-person art department. I’d been passionate about uniforms, colors, and logos since my youth, and it was a lot of fun getting my artistic sports visions out there. I specialized in designing graphics for my favorite sport, NFL football (although I also got to design Nolan Ryan’s official 300th-victory shirt [shown above]). I created the Conference Champs and Super Bowl locker room tees during the infancy of that product category. It was amazingly cool to have NFL team personnel and players wearing my artwork. I still see some of those shirts for sale on eBay 30 years later.

After two and a half years, I was able to secure the most coveted role I could have only dreamed of: pro teams services and relations coordinator. This job called for me to deal with the players and teams in all four of the major pro sports. With Starter being the biggest and best in the world at the time, and with the company at its peak, I could not envision a better job on the planet. How could there be? Here I was, a 25-year-old guy, going to Super Bowls, World Series, and so on, with all-areas access and elite treatment.

I was eventually appointed Team Service Manager for the NFL. It was a blast selecting the apparel and headwear styles for the teams to wear. I still remember the first player endorsement contract I negotiated — I signed Raiders wide receiver “Rocket” Ismail in ’94. Raiders players were always a priority and very important — something about the silver & black!

The job put me in contact with a lot of celebrities — not just NFL people (countless star players, along with coaches like Don Shula, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Green), but also actors and musicians, I never knew who would be on the other end of the phone when I answered it, from Jerome Bettis to Paul McCartney. Everyone wanted Starter!

Originally we had all 28 then-current NFL teams wearing our product on the sidelines. Then, with the unexpected ambush of Apex One in 1990, we had to start paying coaches for their team’s coverage. The exposure wars began as we competed for the likes of George Seifert, Chuck Knox, Mike Ditka and so on. We would offer individual contracts to these guys for the right to outfit their team. The dollar amounts, which seemed exorbitant at the time, were laughably low sums by today’s standards.

Then we moved into uniforms. Although we didn’t have experience with on-field gear, there was no learning curve for us regarding uniform construction or production because it was outsourced to the very best — the Ripon folks in Berlin, Wis. They made our uniforms for us so the teams and Starter didn’t miss a beat in the transition.

The first teams we outfitted were the Steelers, Packers, and Washington. We later expanded to supply the Vikings, Dolphins, Chargers, Patriots, Ravens, Eagles, and Jets. (When Parcells took the Jets job, I told him, “Now we just have to change those dreadful uniforms.” He agreed, and thankfully they went back to their roots.)

We redesigned the Vikings’ purple jerseys following the ’95 season; I felt it was an aesthetic step backwards since I favored tradition:

Moving the TV numbers up to make room for the sleeve logo was fine. But I hated the sleeve stripes becoming the knit cuff at the end of the sleeves, especially striped in gold/white/gold. Those colors bordering each other never work — they don’t contrast well. if at all.

Unfortunately, as the 1990s wore on, the sun began to set on Starter. At that time, dozens of companies had the license to make Jets jerseys, Broncos jackets, etc. With all of that competition, and the league charging higher exposure fees from us, we had to spend more while sales began to wane. Just an oversaturated market. On April 19, 1999, only weeks after our product line had been voted the best at the annual NFL Equipment Managers meeting (beating out Nike, Reebok, and Logo Athletic), I got the word that we were finished as a company. Until the end and to this day, I maintain Starter made the best-quality apparel. It really was special there, the product and the people.

I moved on to Logo Athletic — Starter’s competitor — in Indianapolis. But in February 2000 I was called into the president’s office and told they were going out of business too. I was out of a job twice in less than a year, struck by bankruptcy lightning again.

I returned home to Connecticut in September of 2000 and was hired by Saranac, which at the time was Reebok’s NFL glove licensee. They had started on-field gloves for athletes — baseball batting gloves in the late ’60s, football in the ’70s. I was to handle all 32 teams’ glove and accessory needs, working closely with Reebok HQ to develop the colorways for their contracted players’ on-field gloves (thereby rekindling my design roots a bit). I reported to the owner of Saranac who, oddly, also happened to be a VP of the Green Bay Packers. A great man. It was a fun gig.

Reebok, meanwhile, soon struck an unprecedented 10-year exclusive apparel deal with the NFL. In September of 2003 I was given my biggest role: I was to work out of Reebok HQ in Massachusetts, overseeing the company’s contracted NFL players. In essence, I was managing the NFL team, league, and player services and relations for the company. This would primarily include negotiating and signing the players to contracts, and working on their footwear and glove product. (As an example, in November 2006 I did neon green gloves for Deion Branch in Seattle. That was the start of the Seahawks’ neon green craze.)

The signings included both Peyton and Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, DeMarcus Ware, Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, and many more. Reebok was the only game in town as far as the NFL’s uniforms and sideline apparel. Among other things, it put me on the Super Bowl XLI podium with Peyton in 2007:

My job also entailed executing player TV and photo shoots and appearances. My personal highlight was the “Perfectville” TV shoot in 2008 with the ’72 Dolphins (thanks for the jersey, Mercury!). When Reebok’s contract with the NFL expired, I stayed on for a year afterward until the remaining player contracts expired. I left in January 2013.

I’m currently the curator for the Patriots Hall of Fame. The Patriots are a premier, elite organization — the latest in a lifetime of such outfits I’ve been fortunate enough to be affiliated with. It’s been a great ride, and I wouldn’t change a thing.


Paul here. Great story, Kurt — thanks for sharing.

Starter has gone through some new iterations since Kurt’s time with the company, of course. Most recently, they made the uniforms for the AAF — but we all know how that played out.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Two great tastes that taste great together: You may have seen the shirt on the left before, but I’d never seen the one on the right until reader Ryan Brandt, who has both shirts in his wardrobe, sent me this photo. He says he got that one from a bottle shop on Chicago’s South Side — nice!

• • • • •

• • • • •

At the old ballgame: Faaaascinating story yesterday from the New York Daily News, which reported that the Yankees have yanked Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” — a longtime staple of the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium — and replaced it with other recordings of the song after learning that Smith recorded at least two racist songs and endorsed a racist doll.

For those too young to remember, “God Bless America” was not played at MLB ballparks until after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when it became a standard seventh inning feature for the balance of the ’01 season and postseason. In the years that followed, most teams eventually reserved the song for Sundays and/or holidays, but the Yankees have kept playing it at every home game. Their TV broadcasts, most of which are shown on the team-owned YES network, stick around for the playing of the song instead of going to commercial (by contrast, the pregame playing of the national anthem is not broadcast), with the camera typically showing fans holding a flag or a USA-themed banner during the song.

Incredibly, this is the second time the Yankees have had to pull a “God Bless America” vocalist due to concerns about bigotry. In 2009, the team sacked Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who at the time routinely performed the song live on the field during the stretch of home playoff games, after reports that he had made an anti-Semitic slur, which he later said was a joke. (Visiting teams sometimes complained that Tynan’s long, drawn-out rendition of the song gave the Yanks an unfair advantage, because it forced the visiting pitcher to stand around in the October chill before getting down to business in the bottom of the seventh.)

Earlier that year, the Yankees settled a lawsuit brought by a fan who was ejected from a game after he tried to use the restroom during the playing of “God Bless America.” As part of the settlement, the team agreed that it would no longer restrict fans’ movements in the stadium while the song was being played.

Radical thought: Stop the outdated jingoistic nonsense already and just play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the stretch. I’m fairly certain there won’t be any lawsuits or accusations of bigotry over that.

Update: The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, who also have a longstanding connection to Kate Smith, are following the Yankees’ lead.

• • • • •

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Yianni Varonis

Baseball News: Some Diamondbacks players are wearing Rawlings’ new Mach batting helmet (from Josh Miller). … It looks like Yankees 1B Luke Voit wore the batting helmet of teammate Gio Urshela last night (from @ColdAsBryan and Robby Margason). … ESPN revealed on SportsCenter the Fayetteville Woodpeckers’ three new alternative uniforms (from @killasugah). … Typically, a baseball jersey isn’t appropriate church attire. But jerseys are welcome at this Washington, D.C. church, which purposefully holds mass before each Nationals home game, giving fans the chance to attend both (from John Muir). … A local artist has designed the Rays giveaway cap that young fans will receive at a game next month … A local high school German class attended a Twins game wearing a T-shirt that said “Zwillinge,” which means Twins in German (from Gary-O). … A Southern-based comedy group called 85 South regularly wears Braves-styled apparel, including these well-made jerseys (from Kevin Eckhoff). … The Omaha Storm Chasers had a little fun last night, showing their lineup with redactions as a nod to the Mueller Report (from journalist Brett Baker). … New throwbacks for the Nashville Sounds (from Chris Howell).

NFL News: From Phil: The 49ers will again wear their all-white throwbacks in 2019. … We know that the Browns will have new uniforms in 2020. Could the five stripe pattern the team has recently used in its marketing materials be a part of any redesign, on or off the field? … This is kind of strange: The Chiefs released their 2019 schedule by recreating each of its opponents’ helmets with grey facemasks, whether accurate or not, except for the Chargers, who were shown with yellow facemasks (from @beelze_BUBBLES). … The Panthers unveiled their schedule with a journey through video gaming history. … Like the Falcons, the Texans paid homage to the Game of Thrones intro to unveil their 2019 schedule. … Here’s a clearer picture of the Jaguars’ new 25th-season logo that was recently teased (from multiple readers). … A designer has posted uniform concepts for each NFL team.

College Football News: How many SEC football stadiums can you fit in Talladega Superspeedway? It turns out all of them (from James Gilbert). … Boise State is replacing its well-known field this offseason, though the new turf will remain blue (from Tyler Keefe).

Hockey News: Reader Kary Klismet was at an Avalanche game when he spotted a fan wearing the jersey of “Bernie,” the team’s St. Bernard mascot, complete with a dog bone numeral and a hole in the back for a tail. Kary says the fan “has hired Bernie as entertainment for several events for his organization and got the jersey as an appreciative gesture from the team.”

NBA News: A few items from Phil: This article details “The most influential NBA player advertisements and brand partnerships” in the league’s history; GQ wrote a story on how Converse created the basketball shoe of the future; and Warriors F/C Jordan Bell wore shoes last night that paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle, the rapper who was recently shot and killed. … Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel received custom Bulls jerseys featuring No. 57.7 to symbolize the 57.7 million people who visited the city last year (from Griffin Smith).

Soccer News: Here’s a visual history of English club Liverpool wearing pinstripes, including on its newest shirt (from Steve Kriske). … Scottish club Celtic’s new home shirt probably leaked (from our own Anthony Matthew Emerson and multiple readers). … German club VfB Stuttgart will wear a 125th-anniversary shirt (from Antonio Losada). … FC Wichita Falls, an arena league team, announced that the winning submission from its team-naming contest was “Flyers.”

Grab Bag: Cross-listed from the college football section: How many SEC football stadiums can you fit in Talladega Superspeedway? It turns out all of them (from James Gilbert). … Professional IndyCar driver Marco Andretti will use a throwback livery for the Indianapolis 500 that pays homage to his grandfather, Mario Andretti, who won the race in 1969 (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … Vogue detailed “the most mesmerizing design moments” from the world’s preeminent furnishing and design sector showcase, the Salone del Mobile. … The Wisconsin-based coffee company Kickapoo Coffee announced that it will change its name to avoid appropriating the identity of the indigenous Kickapoo tribes (from R. Scott Rogers and Nick Haering). … Disney has introduced “Captain Minnie Mouse,” who wears pants on the company’s cruise line, to “inspire the next generation of female leaders in the maritime industry.” … Some women are criticizing Twitter’s CEO for making a public appearance in a beanie and hooded sweatshirt that they believe represents a double standard. … This is what Walmart looked like when it first opened in 1962. … Ahead of Easter, check out these photographs depicting eggs in art and design. … Take a look at the Easter egg designs that Iowa and Utah submitted for this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll. … HBO issued a statement asking that its “intellectual property not be used for political purposes” after President Trump made a made a Game of Thrones-themed tweet yesterday. … Adidas is out with a new Game of Thrones-themed shoe that depicts both “fire” and “ice” (from John Cerone).

• • • • •

Our latest raffle winner is Randy Allemann, who’s won himself a Goodyear-inspired Uni Watch T-shirt, in green. Congrats to him, and big thanks to Jon Eidukas for purchasing and donating the shirt. We’ll have more raffles next week.

• • • • •

Happy Passover and Easter to all who are celebrating this weekend. — Paul

Comments (75)

    I went to the Starter outlet store in 1992, i believe it was in some random factory complex in New Haven. It had rack & racks of satin jackets that are so expensive now.

    I went there several years later looking for some CFL-in-the-USA items but came away empty-handed.

    When my wife moved to Wisconsin in 1999 we got her a heavy parka at the Packers Hall of Fame, made by Starter. We still use it 20 years later. Good work.

    I wish the flak who came up with GBA during the stretch still lived in my neighborhood so I could ask him how he feels about it all these years later.

    The whole GBA thing is silly.

    For that matter I’m fine with ditching the national anthem. It’s silly theatre that serves no purpose and actually waters down the meaning of the song by playing it so much before something as trivial as a sporting event. Much like the pledge of allegiance in schools, it has become a force of habit/obligation, not any sort of genuine showing of patriotism for 99% of people.

    Take it away and let the crowd sing it on their own if they want to.

    I’m fine with ditching the national anthem. It’s silly theatre that serves no purpose and actually waters down the meaning of the song by playing it so much before something as trivial as a sporting event.

    Royals owner Ewing Kauffman made precisely that argument in the early 1970s, when he wanted to restrict the anthem to Sundays and holidays. But he was accused to being unpatriotic and relented.

    Agree 100% Derek.

    Although it is more pre-game than game, has ditching the anthem every come up as part of the solution for shortening the length of MLB games?

    The Yankees primarily have the Stadium organist play God Bless America, although I’ve noticed fans sing along with extra gusto when “white with foam” comes on, echoing how it sounded in Kate Smith’s rendition. On Opening Day there was a live singer.

    I believe Kate Smith’s rendition stopped being played at Yankee games beginning on April 1.

    Great lede today. I have good memories of Starter back in the 1990s. The Starter jackets are superb and hats were great too.

    They did supply jerseys for all CFL teams 1993-99. Do remember some NHL hockey jerseys being Starter for a brief time.


    As a Roughrider fan I had to click on the link.

    Is that from the last year of Ottawa Rough Riders in the black-and-red? Seems they changed their uniform or logo every year near the end.

    Thresherk, you are right. That is from 1996.

    The Ottawa Rough Riders changed back to the familiar black and red in 1996 after 2 seasons wearing the red with gold and navy trim uniforms brought in under the short Bruce Firestone ownership era. The red, gold and navy was an unpopular throwback to a colour scheme the Eastern Riders wore way, way back that no one alive could remember.


    In fact, that 1996 photo was the last year of the Ottawa Rough Riders. On life support that season. The photo would one of the last Roughriders vs. Rough Riders games.

    Of course, silver lining is Ottawa is back with the Redblacks. The teams is good both on the field and financially.

    I was glad to see Henry Burris win a Grey Cup, no matter the team.

    Also, being in the Eastern US, I’ve taken a trip or more to see Saskatchewan play at the Eastern teams. I may have been to the one in the top photo.

    Interesting it took this long for the Yankees to be “made aware” of the racist songs. The Bodega Boys podcast (which features Desus & Mero from their self titled Showtime program) had a podcast that talked about it back in August. Considering they both hail from the Bronx it’s odd it took that long for anyone to take notice.

    The Kate Smith songs in question have been on YouTube forever and are often near the top of the search engine when you search for her songs.

    And one of the songs, was a top billboard hit (#12) and also covered by Paul Robeson.

    Remember, atheists love baseball too.

    Great lede on Starter, very interesting working life he has lead. As a kid growing up in the 80’s and early 90s, Starter was everything. Of course everyone had to have a Starter jacket, and that logo on the back of the hats was the best. I never had a Starter jacket, but I’m certain I had a team’s hat, likely the Suns, I’ll have to see if I still do.

    “God Bless America” is a much better song than “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.

    Strongly disagree. But it doesn’t really matter which song is “better,” at least not in terms of their respective artistic merits; what matters is which song is *more appropriate* for the stretch, and the answer to that question is clearly “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

    But they’re already out to the ballgame. “Get Me Back Safely From The Ballgame” would be appropriate.

    Reminds me of Cub fans singing “the Cubs are gonna win today” after each game they have already won.

    Wow. Erasing history without context. Why doesn’t someone ask whether Kate Smith had to record those songs in order to fulfill her album contract?

    Actually, there were no “albums” in the 1930s, just 78rpm records. In any case, if you’re aware of any recording artists — Smith or otherwise — who were contractually obligated to perform racist material, please share that information with us so we can understand that full “context” you’re referring to. It would also be helpful if you could provide “context” for her endorsement of the racist doll. Thanks.

    I never like it when history is just erased. The endorsement in question was recorded in the 1930’s. If we hold everyone from the past to 2019 standards, then we’ll have about 10 songs from before 1999 to listen to. Just eliminating something that might offend the sensitive is robbing the word of history and we’ll never get the chance to honestly discuss issues like racism, because purging the past denies us any template to make the future better.

    I never like it when history is just erased.

    Please explain more fully what you feel qualifies as “history” and “erasure.”

    For example, do you object every time a building is torn down? After all, that building was part of architectural history, and also the history of the town or city where it was located.

    Do you object every time a billboard ad is replaced with another one? After all, the billboard was part of advertising history.

    Do you object every time a library discards a book? After all, the book was part of literary history, publishing history, the library’s history, and so on.

    Do you object every time a product is discontinued? After all, the product was part of business history.

    I could go on, but I trust you can see what I’m getting at. In short: Do you only object to the “erasure” of certain kinds of “history”? If so, please explain why you’re so selective.

    Nobody is “purging” Kate Smith’s history. On the contrary, it seems to me that this story is bringing new things about her to light. The Yankees and Flyers are simply saying that they no longer wish to have her representing them. That is not a “purge”; it’s simply an evolution in the teams’ marketing approaches.

    As for all of us having “the chance to honestly discuss issues like racism,” perhaps you think teams should go out of their way to honor more singers who recorded racist songs, so as to create a more “honest discussion”? That’s certainly a novel approach.

    The Flyers also have a tradition of playing Smith’s “God Bless America”; in their case they’ve played it since 1969 before inportant games, in place of the national anthem. They currently play it in conjunction with a live performance by Lauren Hart; will be interesting to see if they follow in the footsteps of the Yankees.

    “HBO issued a statement asking that its “intellectual property not be used for political purposes” after President Trump made a made a Game of Thrones-themed tweet yesterday.”

    You mean the same show that put Bush’s severed head on a pike?

    The issue isn’t whether the show has a political point of view; the issue is whether third parties can use the show’s intellectual property for political purposes without permission.

    Please stay on-topic. Thanks.

    It used a Bush mask in constructing a prop. There was nothing on the show that in any way indicated it was Bush. The fake outrage over it was ridiculous.

    I’d be fine with getting rid of the national anthem – god bless America & take me out to the ball game at brewer games — “beer barrel polka” (roll out the barrel) stays!

    This is a wonderful article, but I can’t express how hard it was to see a “Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl 23 Champions”

    I am a lifelong Bengals fan from Virginia Beach. I picked the Bengals as my team because I did not have a home team. I really loved their uniforms and helmet.

    I am also an idiot :(.

    Keep up the great work.

    -This is one of my favorite leads of all time in this site. Also, o spent the whole time reading it thinking “I recognize Kurt’s name from somewhere but can’t place it…” then got to the end and saw that he’s the curator of the Pats HOF.

    -“Radical thought: Stop the outdated jingoistic nonsense already and just play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the stretch. I’m fairly certain there won’t be any lawsuits or accusations of bigotry over that.“

    Amen. GBA is jingoistic claptrap imo, and frankly I hate the angry mood that it illicits in Yankee Stadium, especially in recent years. Hopefully this ends up being the first step in eliminating it entirely, at least as far as EVERY game goes.

    There’s nothing either aggressive nor militaristic about God Bless America. Ergo, it’s not jingoism.

    Eventually this PC lunacy has to stop. Here’s hoping that we don’t find out that Jack Norworth once committed a microagression against someone, otherwise we’ll have nothing to do between the top and the bottom of the 7th inning but read The Daily Worker.

    I bought an AAF jersey (Starter brand, before the fall) and I was surprised with the quality of the jersey. It’s sturdier than my Nike and Reebok Rams jerseys and the screening doesn’t feel like it’s peeling right off the bat.

    Starter could get back to dominance if they can bust Nike for their sham.

    Love the Fayetteville Woodpeckers’ alternate jersey. Context: Fayetteville is an Astros farm team.

    So, it looks like at least five teams are wearing Rainbow Guts this year:
    1. Round Rock Express
    2. Reno Aces (Corazones, for Latinx heritage)
    3. Fayetteville Woodpeckers
    4. Pensacola Blue Wahoos
    5. Hartford Yard Goats (Chivos, for Latinx heritage)

    I also LUST after that Fayetteville cap.

    I am proud to say I know Kurt personally. One of the best guys I met at SCSU and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Kurt, if you read this I haven’t forgot you! BTW I am a Patriots STH so maybe I’ll see you there.

    Starter was never my thing (for a sports fan, I have purchased very little – other than caps – retail sports wear) but fantastic lede today Paul! Kurt shared some great stuff!


    The story about the POLICE preventing movement at Yankee Stadium during GBA is frankly horrifying.
    What is it about “patriotism” that causes some people to go full lunatic?


    “In an effort to promote patriotism, Yankee security officials and uniformed NYPD officers hired by the Yankees prevented fans from moving around Yankee Stadium when the song was played.” (From the NYCLU article, 2009, link above). Simply incredible. The Yankees appointed themselves the protectors of patriotism. The $10,000 settlement wasn’t enough.

    I was pretty flabbergasted to read this as well. Several years ago I went to a minor league game (I’m thinking Mahoning Valley) and arrived at the gates just as the national anthem was starting. We were not allowed inside until the song was over. Pure silliness.

    The Yankees appointed themselves the protectors of patriotism.

    Not just protectors, but *arbiters” and *definers.*

    Totally agree that $10K was far too light a settlement.

    “The Patriots are a premier, elite organization….except for the deflategate…and the owner visiting massage parlors…and the murderous drug dealing tight end…and that whole cheating by recording the rams practices before the super bowl, but yeah – “class” act.

    Is there anything that can be read into the Browns posting the first photo shoot with OBJ on Twitter with him wearing the Color Rush Uniform?

    ”Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure to deliver but the original Chuck… I can’t think of any other product we use on a daily basis that is 100-plus years old.” says Thomas Bell, Sr., a senior innovator at Nike



    “Typically, a baseball jersey isn’t appropriate church attire.”

    Come to Green Bay on a Sunday in the fall – and, well, the rest of the year, too – and you’ll see plenty of jerseys in church.

    I found this to be a good book on the history & controversies of “God Bless America”:

    God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song link

    The Yankees decision with Kate Smith is almost inconsequential compared to the Flyers. For the team to move like they did, and as quickly as they did was not an easy decision I am sure. For those not aware, Smith was woven into the fabric of the team. They put a statue up for her. Realize it’s a Philly local story, but it is a really huge Philly story. From what I am reading on social media, people of course are in two camps on the issue. An interesting question that I’m sure will be raised is whether or not former owner Ed Snider would have made the same choice. In Philly, this one will not go away for a while..

    The hypocrisy of so many in today’s society is unbelivable.

    Eighty years after the recordings of these songs, we live in a society that banishes them from public display (I’m not going to argue against that, per se), but in that same society “artists” now release songs to the masses that encourage and glorify cop killing, drug use, gang rape, and refer to beating your bitches and hoes, and many of those same performers are awarded keys to their cities and get invited to the White House.

    How can we sit here in 2019 and wonder how on earth Kate Smith was able to release those songs to the public without scorn, when today songs with lyrics that are exponentially more offensive are glorified by so many?

    It’s a sad, sad reflection on society.

    Eighty years after the recordings of these songs, we live in a society that banishes them from public display…

    This assertion is false. The recordings are not being banished at all. You can go on YouTube or Spotify and listen to them right now if you want.

    The Yankees and Flyers have simply decided that they don’t wish to have this particular singer representing their organizations anymore. That’s all. You can agree or disagree with those two business decisions, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t distort an already-volatile topic by misrepresenting what’s actually taken place. Thanks.

    (To my knowledge, the Yankees and Flyers have also never chosen to be represented by any of the types of songs you’re describing.)

    Indeed, great point — except, as I’ve already pointed out (and as you’ve apparently chosen to ignore), it’s premised on a falsehood.

    This is such a cop-out, saying it was ok to sing a racist song because people sing inappropriate songs (in your opinion)now? Wrong is wrong man, racism is not right, and it doesn’t matter that it happened a long time ago. I’m Mexican, and a lot of the things that I and others like me have and will continue to go through you will never understand. So if I’m not black, who am I to say what should or shouldn’t bother someone who is? History and what certain groups have faced in the past helps shape what we are now, people that have never faced racism (or deny its existence), seem to forget that. Example: ever think about why some rappers rap about killing cops?

    I always time my bathroom break for those games when that stupid song is played. I figure it’s appropriate. Added bonus: No lines.

    At least the Paul Cartier organ version of God Bless America doesn’t remind me of the 1974 Flyers every night. Now, if they’d only stop telling me to remove my cap….

    The PA announcer always says “Ladies and Gentleman, will you please rise and remove your caps”. Then I get a bunch of crap from those around me when I don’t remove it. I don’t mind standing. It *is* the seventh inning stretch, after all. ;)

    The funny thing (or maybe the sad thing) is that the stretch was devised for an era when people spent most of the game in their seats. But ballparks nowadays are designed to keep you *out* of your seats. They want you up, circulating, shopping, eating, buying. Who spends the whole game in their seat? (I mean, *I* do, but I realize many people don’t.) So the stretch is almost superfluous.

    I agree with basically all of what Paul has said about playing songs at sporting events in general, but my biggest issue with the Flyers is the hypocrisy that this move shows? Are they going to distance themselves from Bobby Clarke for deliberately breaking a guy’s leg? Are they going to distance themselves from Ron Hextall for trying to clobber celebrating goal-scorers with his stick?

    How are those kinds of actions any more morally justifiable than racism? To me, the whole thing just seems like a calculated decision based on the bottom line. They’re a bad team whose popularity is declining, so they’re putting on a facade of class, sensitivity, and righteousness to try to pander to people who are willing to turn a blind eye to the rest of the organization’s history.

    I would say lack of sportsmanship is not in the same category as racism.

    But this really brings us back to a problem that comes up too often (both on this website’s comments section and in public discourse in general): focusing on the messenger instead of the message.

    It really doesn’t matter whether the Flyers are hypocrites, or whether Clarke and Hextall were jerks. Or if it *does* matter, that has nothing to do with Kate Smith and “God Bless America.” Even hypocrites and assholes can sometimes be right; even really good people can sometimes be wrong.

    Stick to the message, not the messenger.

    Where I kind of see the issue becoming a real headache for MLB is when people start asking why the Hall of Fame and so many clubs honor white players from yesteryear who held attitudes that were common for their time but considered racist today.


    Suggested rewording: “…who held racist attitudes that were common and tolerated at the time but are no longer tolerated today.”

    Never liked the playing of “God Bless America” at sporting events but understood it in the wake of 9/11. However, it’s become an unnecessary “tradition” for the past 18 years and I, for one, will be glad to see it gone. I’d much rather hear “This Land Is Your Land,” which has a more hopeful and inclusive message, in my opinion. Of course I expect full up-in-arms idiocy in the current political climate, like that song is the embodiment of being an American.

Comments are closed.