Rethinking sports heroes after allegations Schembechler ignored UM doctor's sexual abuse | Michigan Radio
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Rethinking sports heroes after allegations Schembechler ignored UM doctor's sexual abuse

Jun 18, 2021

A statue of Bo Schembechler stands outside Schembechler Hall on the University of Michigan campus. In recent days, some have called for the statue to come down and the building to be renamed.
Credit Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Survivors of sexual abuse are increasing pressure on the University of Michigan to account for what they say is the school’s failure to protect students. New allegations against alleged serial predator Dr. Robert Anderson say the university’s legendary former football coach, Bo Schembechler, knew about Anderson’s abuse for decades.

In a recent column, Michael Rosenberg looked at the hero status that Schembechler was given during and after his coaching career. Rosenberg is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, a former columnist at The Detroit Free Press, and lives in Ann Arbor. He appeared on Michigan Radio's Morning Edition to talk about the Anderson case.

More than 800 of Anderson's victims have come forward so far to say they were abused, but in the past week, the focus has been on Bo Schembechler and what he knew about Anderson. Rosenberg says for many U of M football fans, Schembechler embodied what it meant to be a Wolverine.

“I think part of Bo's appeal and legend with Michigan fans is this idea that he was running some program that was of higher quality, of higher kind of moral fiber than others. The idea that they were valuing education and the team ahead of the individual and all of that was always part of the lore," Rosenberg said.

"And when you set something up as superior, then when it turns out to be flawed, as everything is – and in this case 'flawed' is certainly an understatement – there's blowback. There's a sense of, wait a second, this person is not a hero, but actually a monster. And somewhere in there is the reality of what happened and we're still learning more every day."

For more on this story listen to the interview near the top of this page and read Rosenberg’s article at the link below.

Further reading: “Bo Schembechler Was a Flawed Man, Not Hero, of His Time” by Michael Rosenberg for Sports Illustrated

Editor’s Note: The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan met Thursday. During the public comment period, another victim of Anderson spoke out for the first time. John Clubb is a pilot who said Anderson abused him during a medical exam in the 1980s. The Regents did not take any action related to the Anderson case at the meeting.

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