Former Michigan football players detail what Bo Schembechler knew about Robert Anderson

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When Bo Schembechler recruited Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson to play for the Michigan football team, he told their parents that he would take care of them like they were his own family.

But when Kwiatkowski and Johnson arrived in Ann Arbor, they were soon abused by Dr. Robert Anderson, the former athletic department physician accused of molesting hundreds of patients across decades.

Kwiatkowski and Johnson both say after they reported the incidents, Schembechler broke his promise — and did nothing about Anderson.

Thursday afternoon, Kwiatkowski and Johnson became the latest former Wolverines to step forward publicly and allege that Schembechler, whose name adorns the football facility and whose visage is captured by a statue outside of the facility, allowed Anderson’s assaults to continue unabated. The two shared their stories at a press conference alongside Matt Schembechler, who spoke of his abuse at the hands of Anderson and also said that his father, Bo, was told of Anderson’s misconduct and actively fought to keep Anderson employed as the team doctor.

Kwiatkowski, who played offensive tackle between 1977-79 and attended the university between 1977-81, said he and his “poor, working-class family” were recruited vigorously by Bo Schembechler.

Former player Daniel Kwiatkowski talks with reporters Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Sheraton Detroit Novi hotel about being a sexual assault survivor of University of Michigan's Dr. Robert E. Anderson
Former player Daniel Kwiatkowski talks with reporters Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Sheraton Detroit Novi hotel about being a sexual assault survivor of University of Michigan's Dr. Robert E. Anderson

“Bo promised my family that he would keep me safe and make sure that I got the best medical treatment,” Kwiatkowski said. “We were sold.”

As Kwiatkowski entered his freshman year, he attended a mandatory physical exam with Anderson. During that exam, Kwiatkowski says, Anderson “molested and violated me.”

Kwiatkowski says he approached Schembechler after a football practice following the first exam and told him that Anderson had assaulted him.

“Bo looked at me and said, ‘Toughen up,’” Kwiatkowski said Thursday.

In total, Kwiatkowski says he had three total physical exams with Anderson, who “violated me again and again.” Kwiatkowski told a story about how one year, he came down with a flu-type sickness that led to him coughing up blood. Kwiatkowski considered scheduling a doctor's visit to be prescribed medicine, until he was told by a teammate that Dr. Anderson had molested that player during a visit the previous week.

“I laid there for six weeks sick,” Kwiatkowski said, “because I didn’t want to go get the abuse.”

Former player Gilvanni Johnson talks with reporters Thursday, June 10, 2021, at the Sheraton hotel in Novi about being a sexual assault survivor of U-M football's longtime team doctor Robert E. Anderson. Johnson, along with another former player, said then-coach Bo Schembechler knew of the abuse but did nothing to stop it or address it.
Former player Gilvanni Johnson talks with reporters Thursday, June 10, 2021, at the Sheraton hotel in Novi about being a sexual assault survivor of U-M football's longtime team doctor Robert E. Anderson. Johnson, along with another former player, said then-coach Bo Schembechler knew of the abuse but did nothing to stop it or address it.

Johnson, who played receiver at Michigan between 1982-86, endured a similar experience. Like Kwiatkowski and his family, Johnson and his mother had been promised by Schembechler that the coaching staff “would take care of me and (Johnson’s mother) would have nothing to worry about while I was at Michigan.”

Before Johnson’s preseason physical exam his freshman year, he began to hear jokes from other teammates “about seeing Dr. Anal.” He didn’t know what the jokes meant. Upon arriving for his exam, Johnson says, Anderson “played with my genitals, tried to arouse me and put a finger in my anus.”

“The exam was very painful,” Johnson said. “I felt humiliated and confused. I’d never had a medical exam like that before.”

Subsequent visits (in total, Johnson estimated he saw Anderson “15 to 20 times”) played out the same way. After the second exam with Anderson, Johnson said he told Schembechler “that Dr. Anderson played with my genitals and he put his finger in my anus.” According to Johnson, Schembechler responded by saying he would “check on that with the medical staff.”

“I never heard back from Bo,” Johnson said, “and he never discussed it with me again.”

Both Kwiatkowski and Johnson spoke of the hardships that occurred later in life as a result of Anderson’s abuse.

“Because of my experience at Michigan, I did not trust doctors,” Johnson said. “I had trust issues, relationship issues and intimacy issues.”

In 1999, Kwiatkowski attended a reunion for the football program. Schembechler (who died in 2006) and Anderson (who died in 2003) were there as well. When Kwiatkowski saw Anderson, he “immediately became sick just like I had 20 years earlier.”

Later that night, he had an opportunity to say hello to his former coach. Kwiatkowski was “oddly nervous” as he approached Schembechler.

“That’s when Bo told me, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. I can’t hurt you anymore,’” Kwiatkowski said. “Well, Bo’s statement couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Michigan Wolverines content.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ex-Michigan football players: We told Bo about Robert Anderson abuse