Two elders Michigan Football players said on Thursday they believe they could have been spared from sexual assault had their coach Bo Schembechler responded to complaints about former team doctor Robert Anderson made by Schembechler’s son , Matt.
Both players said they also tried to warn Bo Schembechler about Anderson’s abusive treatment and were ignored.
Dan Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson joined Matt Schembechler at a press conference in Michigan on Thursday to share their stories. Kwiatkowski played an offensive tackle for the Wolverines in the late 1970s; Johnson played as a receiver in the early 1980s.
The pair said they had previously spoken to investigators about being assaulted by Anderson while on the football team, but publicly revealed their identities for the first time earlier this week.
“Yes [Bo Schembechler] had arrested Anderson before 1982, I wouldn’t have been a victim at all, ”Johnson said.
Anderson held various positions at the University of Michigan from 1966 to 2003, working closely with the sports department for most of that time. More than 800 former patients have filed legal claims that Anderson sexually assaulted them during physical exams and other routine medical appointments. Anderson died in 2008, a decade before the allegations of his abuse gained wide media coverage.
Matt Schembechler said on Wednesday that he was sexually assaulted by Anderson in 1969 when he was 10 years old. Matt Schembechler said that when he told his father about what happened shortly after his appointment, the coach told his son he didn’t want to hear about it. Bo Schembechler then “got hold of” his wife, Millie, and punched his son in the chest, Matt Schembechler said.
Matt Schembechler said his father blocked an attempt to fire Anderson.
Bo Schembechler died in 2006. Millie died in 1992.
“[Bo] believed that no man was more important than the team. Dr Anderson was part of Bo’s team so he was more important than any man, “Matt Schembechler said at Thursday’s press conference.” I am showing up for my own healing and to help prevent people and institutions from exploiting the trust and power they will be given in the future. “
Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler, who is Matt’s brother and Bo’s son, told ESPN on Thursday that he didn’t believe Matt’s story. Glenn, who is 10 years younger than Matt, said his father was “as in love with a person as you can imagine” and that if the coach had known that Anderson was sexually assaulting patients, he would. would have stopped.
Glenn Schembechler said he couldn’t refute the experiences of other players, but said he didn’t think his father was aware that Anderson was doing anything other than what would have been typical or acceptable during a physical examination at the time.
“None of us were in this room when these players were talking to Bo,” said Glenn Schembechler. “The Bo I knew would have taken care of it and found another doctor. It would be that easy.”
Kwiatkowski said on Thursday that when he explained to Bo Schembechler how Anderson digitally penetrated his rectum, the coach told him to “harden himself”.
Johnson said he told Bo Schembechler that Anderson assaulted him after his first-grade physical exam. Johnson said the coach said he would check with medical staff but did not follow up after the initial conversation.
Both Kwiatkowski and Johnson have said Anderson’s actions have long-term impacts on their trust in doctors and their personal relationships. They said players frequently joked about Anderson in the locker room when their teammates returned from treatment.
Johnson said he remembered the assistant coaches telling the players if they weren’t working hard they should go visit Anderson.
“It’s only now that I realize how crazy it was to threaten rape as a way to motivate players to work harder,” Johnson said.
Glenn Schembechler has refuted claims that his father hit his brother and mother, saying there was “no way” his father would do this or his mother would stand to be treated this way. He said he did not witness any type of violent behavior in his home as a child.
Glenn Schembechler said he had not spoken with his brother for more than a decade and that relations within their family had long been frayed.
Glenn Schembechler said his brother’s relationship with his father deteriorated decades ago. In 1999, Matt sued his father and the University of Michigan over a dispute over a sports memorabilia business he ran.
Matt Schembechler said Thursday that his father’s response to the allegations about Anderson in 1969 was “the beginning of the end” of their relationship.
“I was saddened, but I can’t say I was shocked,” said Glenn Schembechler, when asked about his reaction to his brother’s public statements this week. “My heart goes out to the victims, but I know for sure that if Bo was there he would feel the same way. He would have done anything to help his players.”
Kwiatkowski, Johnson and Matt Schembechler said on Thursday they are showing up now in hopes of preventing similar situations from happening again in the future. Johnson said he was partially motivated to speak out after hearing comments made last week by current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh, who played for Michigan while Schembechler coached the team in the 1980s, told reporters ahead of this week’s allegations that he cannot recall any instance where Schembechler left potential problems unanswered.
“He never sat on anything,” Harbaugh said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “He never procrastinated on anything. He took care of it before sunset. He’s the Bo Schembechler I know. There’s nothing that has ever been swept under the carpet or ignored. He addressed everything in a timely manner. that I knew. “
The three men who spoke Thursday are among hundreds to sue the University of Michigan for failing to arrest Anderson. A law firm hired by the school in 2020 found that several school employees failed to act when they received credible allegations about Anderson’s assaults. A mediation process to settle the claims began last October, but has not yet resulted in a settlement.
“Our sympathy for all of Anderson’s victims is deep and unwavering, and we thank them for their courage in coming forward,” a University of Michigan statement said in response to Matt Schembechler’s allegations. “We condemn and apologize for the tragic misconduct of the late Dr. Robert Anderson, who left the University 17 years ago and passed away 13 years ago. We are committed to resolving their claims and pursuing the court-guided confidential mediation process. “