Former University of Michigan football players detail sexual abuse by university doctor

Fmr Michigan football players detail sexual abuse by university doctor

The University of Michigan, its storied football program, and legendary former football coach, Glenn “Bo” Schembechler, are all back under the spotlight this week, after two former players came forward in an exclusive interview with Fox News to detail sexual abuse at the hands of longtime Michigan athletic department physician, Dr. Robert E. Anderson.

Multiple former football players have come forward to speak publicly about sexual abuse they say they suffered at the hands of University of Michigan Dr. Robert E. Anderson. (Robert Kalmbach/Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan via AP)

Dan Kwiatkowski, who was a top high school prospect in the state of Michigan and played for the Wolverines from 1977 to 1981 said he was “severely” abused while on campus, beginning with his Freshman year physical, which was performed by Dr. Anderson, who died in 2008 and never faced criminal charges. 

“[Schembechler] came to my house to meet my parents, met my parents. And during that conversation, he promised my parents that I would have an education, that they would send home a better son than that they gave him, and that he would take care of all my medical responsibilities,” explained Kwiatkowski of the recruiting process with Schembechler. 

“So then I went on to, to Michigan, and I was abused in my freshman physical,” said Kwiatkowski.

Anderson’s behavior was well-known, according to Kwiatkowski, which he said often forced young students, many not yet adults, into a horrifying choice: visit Anderson for treatment and potentially face another assault or go without medical care.

“We talked about it in the locker rooms. We talked about it at the bar, we talked about it. If you had a cold, let’s say and you had to go see Dr. Anderson, you had to decide whether or not you wanted to get molested to get the cold medicine,” explained Kwiatkowski.  

“You had to make some really tough decisions as a 17-year-old student. You have to remember we were 17 years old at this time and we were confronted with all types of different situations” said Kwiatkowski.

Another football player Gilvanni Johnson, who played wide receiver for the Maize and Blue from 1982 to 1985, simply responded, “yes, I was.” when asked by Fox News if he was abused by Anderson. 

“It was either a cold, or I got injured in a game, and I went in and I told Bo that, you know, that I had an anal exam that I didn’t think should have took place,” explained Johnson, who was recruited as a two-sport athlete by Michigan. 

Johnson, who resides just over an hour west of Ann Arbor in Macomb County said coaches often threatened players with physicals from Anderson for poor on-the-field performance.

“The coaches, they were joking around in regards to, you know, ‘we’re gonna send you to [the] doctor,’ you know, if you don’t pick it up, or not doing what you’re supposed to do, not hustling and stuff like that. It was, it was joking. It occurred all the time in regards to that.”

Both players also say they alerted former coach Bo Schembechler about Anderson’s conduct. 

Kwiatkowski says he was even told by the coaching legend to “toughen up.”

“I went up to Bo after practice and asked him what about the fingers in the butt with the doctor? He told me to ‘toughen up.’ At that point, I realized, I guess I’m on my own,” said Kwiatkowski.

Head Coach Bo Schembechler of the Michigan Wolverines talks with an official while his team warms up before the start of an NCAA football game circa 1986.
(Getty)

Johnson says he told Schembechler about the abuse, but doubts he did anything with the information because the sexual misconduct continued.

“He told me that he would deal with it and never got back with me,” explained Johnson. “I don’t know if he did anything with it. I mean It continued, so obviously he didn’t do anything with it.”

The decision by the players to speak publicly for the first time comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed on behalf of many of Anderson’s alleged victims in March 2020. Just last month a University-commissioned report conducted by the law firm WilmerHale named Schembechler, who led the Wolverines to 13 Big Ten championships, as one of several university officials who likely knew of the misconduct but failed to act appropriately. 

The report concluded, “Dr. Anderson’s misconduct may have been detected earlier and brought to an end” if the individuals made aware of it decades earlier would have acted on the information relayed to them by his victims. 

“Concerning information was also shared with other University personnel. Although the information these individuals received varied in directness and specificity, Dr. Anderson’s misconduct may have been detected earlier and brought to an end if they had considered, understood, investigated, or elevated what they heard.”  

The report, which relied on 300 patient interviews and information from over 800 people, included a footnote stating that “multiple University personnel who worked with Mr. Schembechler told us that had he been aware of Anderson’s misconduct with patients, he would not have tolerated it.”

Last week, current Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh, who played under Schembechler and whose father served as an assistant under the coach cast doubt on the report, saying “there was nothing that ever was swept under the rug or ignored. He addressed everything in a timely fashion. That’s the Bo Schembechler that I know.”

Schembechler’s own stepson, Matt Schembechler alleges that as a child he was also a victim of Anderson, and that like the former players, he told his stepfather. 

“That hands-on situation that Dr. Anderson did to me, it just, call it intuition, I don’t know, it just was wrong,” Matt said.  

The younger Schembechler appears to have had a strained relationship dating back decades with his stepfather, who died of heart disease in 2006. In a lawsuit filed in the late 1990s, he sought $500,000 in damages from his stepfather and the University of Michigan related to a deal to sell Michigan Stadium bleachers as souvenirs. 

“He just wasn’t built to be a father, and there was never any closeness in the relationship,” he said of his stepfather. 

The former players, who have never spoken publicly before now said they decided to come forward to stand in solidarity with other victims and to protect future generations from experiencing the same type of abuse they faced as young student-athletes. 

“The real reason I’m here is people are saying ‘no one will say or stand up.’ I want to stand up for my fellow players and teammates who went through the same thing I did,” said Kwiatkowski. 

Fighting back tears, Johnson explained, “one of the things that, the reason why I’m speaking out is because of individuals that have come in after me, and kids that are there now. 

“Just want to make sure that this abuse, just want to make sure that the abuse doesn’t take place again, and that kids are protected”

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