Two former Michigan footballers said Thursday they believe they could have been spared sexual assault if their coach, Bo Schembechler, had addressed complaints about former team doctor Robert Anderson from Schembechler’s son Matt.
Both players said they also tried to warn Bo Schembechler about Anderson’s violent treatment and were ignored.
Dan Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson joined Matt Schembechler on Thursday afternoon at a press conference in Michigan to share their stories. Kwiatkowski played offensive tackling for Wolverines in the late 1970s, while Johnson played wide receiver in the early 1980s.
Both men said they had previously spoken to investigators about being raped by Anderson while on the football team, but revealed their identities for the first time earlier in the week.
“If [Bo Schembechler] had stopped Anderson before 1
Anderson served in a number of roles at the University of Michigan from 1966 to 2003 and worked closely with the athletics department most of the time. More than 800 former patients have made legal claims that Anderson sexually assaulted them during physical examinations and other routine medical appointments. Anderson died in 2008, a decade before allegations of his abuse were widely publicized.
On Wednesday, Matt Schembechler said he was sexually assaulted by Anderson in 1969 when he was 10 years old. Matt Schembechler said that when he told his father what happened shortly after his appointment, the coach told his son that he did not want to hear about it. Bo Schembechler then “laid hands on” his wife, Millie, and punched his son in the chest, Matt Schembechler said.
Matt Schembechler said his father then blocked an attempt to fire Anderson.
Bo Schembechler died in 2006. Millie died in 1992.
“[Bo] thought no man is more important than the team. Dr. “Anderson was part of Bo’s team, so he was more important than any man,” Matt Schembechler said during Thursday’s press conference. I come forward for my own healing and to help prevent people and institutions from harnessing trust and power. given them in the future. “
Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler, who is Matt’s brother and Bo’s son, told ESPN on Thursday that he did not believe Matt’s story. Glenn, who is ten years younger than Matt, said his father was “as loving to someone you could imagine” and that if the coach had known Anderson was sexually assaulting patients, he would have stopped it.
Glenn Schembechler said he could not refute other players’ experiences, but said he did not think his father was aware that Anderson was doing anything more than what had been typical or acceptable in a physical exam at the time.
“None of us were in that room when these players spoke to Bo,” Glenn Schembechler said. “The Bo I knew would have taken care of it and found another doctor. It would be so easy.”
Kwiatkowski said Thursday that when he told Bo Schembechler about how Anderson digitally penetrated the rectum, the coach told him to “harden up.”
Johnson said he told Bo Schembechler that Anderson attacked him after his physical exam as a beginner. Johnson said the coach said he would contact medical staff, but he did not follow up after the initial conversation.
Kwiatkowski and Johnson both said Anderson’s actions had a long-term impact on their trust in doctors and their personal relationships. They said players often joked about Anderson in the locker room when teammates returned from treatment.
Johnson said he remembered assistant coaches telling players that if they did not work hard, they would have to visit Anderson.
“Only now do I realize how crazy it was to threaten rape as a way to motivate players to work harder,” Johnson said.
Glenn Schembechler denied allegations that his father hit his brother and mother, saying there was no way his father would do it or that his mother would stand to be treated that way. He said he did not witness any violent behavior in his home while growing up.
Glenn Schembechler said he has not spoken to his brother for more than a decade and that the relationship in their family has long been frayed.
Glenn Schembechler said his brother’s relationship with his father became more acidic decades ago. In 1999, Matt sued his father and the University of Michigan over a dispute over a sports memorabilia company he ran.
Matt Schembechler said Thursday that his father’s response to allegations about Anderson in 1969 was “the beginning of the end” of their relationship.
“I was saddened, but I can not say I was shocked,” Glenn Schembechler said when asked about his reaction to his brother’s public statements this week. “My heart goes out to the victims, but I know for a fact that if Bo were here, he would feel the same way. He would have done anything to help his players.”
Kwiatkowski, Johnson and Matt Schembechler said Thursday that they are coming forward now in hopes of preventing similar situations from happening in the future. Johnson said he was partially motivated to speak after hearing comments from current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh last week.
Harbaugh, who played for Michigan while Schembechler coached the team in the 1980s, told reporters before this week’s accusations that he does not recall any case where Schembechler left potential problems unaddressed.
“He never sat on anything,” Harbaugh said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “He never exposed anything. He took care of it before the sun went down. It’s Bo Schembechler as I know it. There’s nothing that was ever swept under the rug or ignored. He addressed everything in time. It’s Bo Schembechler it. I knew. “
The three men who spoke Thursday are among hundreds who are suing the University of Michigan for not stopping Anderson. A law firm hired by the school in 2020 found that several school staff did not act when presented with credible allegations about Anderson’s attacks. A mediation process to settle the claims began in October last year, but has not yet yielded a solution.
“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 claims. “We condemn and apologize for the tragic misconduct of the late Dr. Robert Anderson, who left the university 17 years ago and died 13 years ago. We are committed to resolving their claims and continuing the legally controlled confidential mediation process.”