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break from norm, lean right
November 11, 2004
At Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity's annual
Mortician's Ball, the football players who stood at the entry of the
raucous event collected an entry fee in exchange for a beer cup. But
these were no run-of-the-mill beer cups.
The tall plastic cups DKE printed for the party depicted John Kerry as
Frankenstein and said, "As scary as Kerry."
DKE, which consists of mostly football, baseball, lacrosse and soccer
players and a few non-athletes, is traditionally a right-leaning
fraternity, football player and DKE President Dicky Shanor '05 said.
While there are a few liberals in the fraternity, the majority of the
brothers seems to be representative of so many varsity athletes on
campus: politically conservative. In stark contrast with the rest of the
student body, many athletes tend to espouse Republican views and vote
the party line.
Freedom, a member of DKE fraternity, rides on the back of the
Zamboni at a men’s hockey game. DKE, a traditionally
right-leaning fraternity, is composed primarily of athletes, who
tend to be conservative and go against the Yale political
"From my experience and the athletes I know, I would agree that
athletes seem more conservative," Joshua Schwartz '05, a member of
the squash team, said. "I don't know if there's any basis for that,
or if [conservative athletes] are the louder athletes that speak
While Schwartz's team happens to be one of the least politically
conservative teams at Yale, teams such as men's lacrosse, football and
baseball are notoriously conservative. As is the case in DKE, there are
always a handful of liberals who stand their ground during political
discussions -- which seem to come up quite often, especially on the
football team -- but conservatives compose the overwhelming majority.
"I guess speaking from experience of people on the football team,
I'd say the proportion of conservatives is a lot greater than in the
student body as a whole," defensive lineman Bryant Dieffenbacher
Dieffenbacher quoted a poll of football players taken by Yale Sports
Publicity at the beginning of the year that found 62 players voting for
Bush, 27 for Kerry and 11 undecided.
In part, Dieffenbacher said, this can be attributed to the geographical
composition of the team. According to the Yale Football
Media guide, 20 players hail from Texas, roughly 35 percent of the team
comes from southern states and around 13 percent have their roots in the
Midwest. Only four players call a northern city home.
In contrast, one third of the squash team is international students, and
another third is from New York. The difference in the geographical
make-up of the two teams speaks volumes about their differing political
The baseball team is composed mainly of Bible Belt ballers. Seven come
from Florida, by far the largest state contingent on the squad.
Pitcher Colin Ward-Henninger '05 said the Republican majority on the
baseball squad is "definitely noticeable." Though Ward-Henningner
is in the Democratic minority, he said he never feels uncomfortable
discussing politics with the team.
"[The Republicans on the team] just think in general most liberals
are going through a phase, and once they get into the real world they'll
realize that it doesn't make sense, and they will become
conservative," Ward-Henninger said.
Ward-Henninger also pointed out the presence of religion on the squad.
He said many team members adhere closely to the laws of a religion, and
some participate in Athletes in Action, a Christian group for athletes.
Catcher Cody Slape '07 is an active participant in AIA at Yale. Meeting
with AIA members twice a week helps him to balance school, sports and
religion, he said.
Shanor said he believes religion is one of the main factors that helps
to explain the conservatism of the football team, as well. A group of
players on the team pray on their own before every game, Shanor said.
And while one would be hard-pressed to find a southerner with a stick in
Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium, there is another huge factor that contributes
to the lacrosse team's conservatism: economics.
"In sports, there is a huge emphasis placed on personal ability and
achievement," Shanor said. "There's little emphasis on
compassion for the loser … If you look at NFL contracts, there are
stipulations that say if you rush 1,000 yards in a certain amount of
games, you get X amount of money. It's very incentive-based. A lot of
emphasis is placed on meritocracy, and that translates over to the
capitalist view of the world."
Lacrosse player Dave Levy '07 agreed that most lacrosse players are
conservative, and their political bent is often based on pocketbook
"I always hesitate to say stuff like that because I think it sort
of takes away from the legitimacy of a Republican's point of view,"
Levy said. "It's not like he's a Republican just because he's rich
… But on the lacrosse team, there are a lot of upper class, high
society kind of kids, so that's why most of our team is
But professor William Kelly, who in the past has taught "Sports,
Society and Culture," said he thinks there is another element at
play. While he agrees that geography, religion and demographics make
some teams more conservative than others, he said an element of
time-honored machismo in contact sports adds to players' conservative
Kelly's argument also helps to explain why highly individualized sports
teams such as squash and tennis are not necessarily as conservative,
even if the players have the same blue-blood pedigrees as their
counterparts on the lacrosse and football teams.
"Those sports are among the most masculine sports, and they tend to
idealize a kind of traditional masculinity and aggressive masculinity
and conform to conventional gender stereotypes," Kelly said.
Kelly's argument also helps to explain why it seems women's teams are
often not as politically conservative as men's teams. While society
expects men to play aggressively, it expects women to take a more
feminine role, Kelly said. That role does not include smashing into
people on the field or on the ice.
"Women are playing against the stereotype when they become involved
seriously in sports like this, so they well may have less conventional,
or be less satisfied with conventional, attitudes," Kelly said.
Lacrosse player Katherine Sargent '05 said the women's lacrosse team is
probably much less conservative than their male counterparts.
"I think it might have to do with gender," Sargent said.
"I think women may tend to be more liberal, and the issues they're
concerned about might have more liberal ideas."
Both Sargent and other female athletes addressed their hesitation to
offend their teammates. While men's teams often get into heated
political debates, the women seem to steer clear from political
"I'm not going to pick a fight with a teammate about
politics," Sargent said. "Those are their values, how they
were raised, what their parents are … It's not worth creating a rift
on the team."
But even on the football team, the players said they are a team above
"We joke around with a liberal or whatever but it's never in a
harsh, mean, offensive sense," Shanor said. "We all do respect
each other in the end, and politics take a back seat when it comes down