Former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler is the latest school employee accused of knowing that athletic physician Robert Anderson was abusing Wolverine athletes.
ClickOnDetroit reported Thursday that a lawsuit on behalf of 50 alleged victims of Anderson, who worked at Michigan from 1968 until 2003 and died in 2008, claims that Schembechler and former athletic director Don Canham “continued to allow Anderson access to athletes” after being told he was a sexual predator.
One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, 23 of which played football between 1968 and 1986, identified as “John Doe EB17,” alleges that he was abused in 1981 after Schembechler recommended that he see Anderson for migraine headaches.
“The men we’re filing for want accountability,” said attorney Jamie White of White Law PLLC. “It’s shocking that Bo Schembechler and Don Canham, two men who enjoyed stature and admiration, just waved off the complaints they received, when they in fact had the power to stop the rape and abuse of hundreds of men.”
According to ClickOnDetroit, the lawsuit states that Schembechler advised a student to file a sexual abuse complaint with Canham in 1982. No action was taken, and Anderson continued to work with athletes for 21 more years while Canham, who died in 2005, kept his role until 1988.
Allegations against Anderson have been coming out since 2018, when a letter to current athletic director Warde Manuel prompted an investigation and numerous lawsuits alleging that Anderson abused more than 400 men. Former Michigan football players filed lawsuits in April, claiming Anderson’s physical exams were abusive and included unnecessary rectal and genital examinations. The lawsuits allege the athletes reported the abuse to multiple athletic trainers, including current Michigan assistant athletic director Paul Schmidt, who reportedly joked about the situation and told players to “get used to that.”
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The University of Michigan has attempted to contact nearly 7,000 former athletes as part of the ongoing investigation, which is being conducted by law firm Wilmer Hale. In May, the Detroit Free Press reported that the University of Michigan admitted Anderson sexually assaulted students, but said that the lawsuits must be dismissed.
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According to the Free Press, the filing states that the university is "determined to acknowledge and reckon with that past and, to the extent possible, provide justice — including in the form of monetary relief — to Anderson’s survivors." However, that doesn't mean those survivors have standing to sue the university and any relief should come outside of the court system, the filing in U.S. District Court says.
"Plaintiff’s claims — which involve a perpetrator who has been dead for 12 years, who has not been employed by the University for 17 years, and who assaulted him decades ago — are barred by the three-year statute of limitations," the lawyers said.
Earlier this month, Cathy Kalahar became the first female athlete to claim she was sexually abused by Anderson.