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ESPN's Will Cain blasts overreaction of athletic teams banning Kate Smith's 'God Bless America' — and the panel erupts

Here we go again

Image source: Twitter video screenshot

ESPN's Will Cain faced off with "First Take's" Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman over the movement to stop using Kate Smith's version of "God Bless America" at sporting events.

Last week, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they would no longer be using Smith's version of "God Bless America" and would be removing a statue dedicated to the late singer, respectively.

Smith came under fire recently after people complained that some of the 1930s-era singer's songs had racist connotations attached to them.

You can read more about Smith, who died in 1986, and the ensuing controversy around "God Bless America," here.

What did Cain say?

During an exchange with Smith and Kellerman about the Yankees' and the Flyers' decisions, Cain explained that he felt it was wrong people were reacting to the song, sung by a woman who has been dead for more than three decades.

Cain also argued that it was foolish to dismantle Smith's entire career over a few questionable songs that were written well before the civil rights movement.

"I'm suggesting it's an absolute and utter fool's errand to go back through history — decades," he said. "Someone who's been passed away for 30 years. Incidents which occurred eight decades ago. And apply modern historical standards to something you can almost reach a century. I'm suggesting that your standard — yours — only requires a handful of people to be a little outraged to go back and tear statues down.

"And," he continued, "I'm telling you that by your standard, President Obama's statues would not stand to today's standard when it comes to gay rights, and that is asinine."

Smith fired back, "That's pretty damn easy for you to say, because you're not the offended party. It's real easy for the person or group that's not the offended party to take that position."

Kellerman later explained how we should still hold people accountable for old actions.

"What I'm saying is in the 1930s, if ... someone was putting out racist lyrics," he began, "they were told often times how wrong they were."

He continued, "They made their choice — and by the way, black people were horribly disenfranchised and alienated and marginalized and oppressed — and now to say 'Well that's the way it was then, and now even with the advantage of hindsight, 'Well, look, yes there was all this injustice' ... we just have to go along with it now, we can never correct anything, we can never say ... 'Bad, that was bad. You, who supported that, that was bad.' That argument doesn't fly with me."

What else?

Cain responded by noting that he wasn't debating Smith's songs one way or the other.

"There's no debate about the nature of the songs that Kate Smith sang. No one is here to excuse them," he said. "What we are talking about is how we treat history and the standards we apply."

One last thing…
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