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Former athletes from Michigan, Ohio State rise above rivalry to support survivors of abuse

Posted at 8:30 PM, Nov 24, 2021

ANN ARBOR (WXYZ) — The night before two former athletes, one from the University of Michigan and the other from Ohio State University, were set to speak to reporters about their support of each other and other victims of sexual abuse by doctors at their respective universities, someone else had already set out to send a bold message to U-M officials.

"Bo knew" and "#hailtothevictims" was written in paint on the ground in front of a statue of the late Bo Schembechler, suggesting the legendary football coach was aware that the late Dr. Robert Anderson was sexually assaulting athletes and did nothing to stop him.

"I can't condone it (the vandalism), but I can understand it because as human beings, when the frustration level kind of balls up, people act out," said Jon Vaughn, who played football for the University of Michigan under Schlembechler.

Vaughn is one of the many former student athletes who have gone on record to say that Anderson used his position of power as the team doctor to assault him.

In early October, Vaughn began camping out in front of U-M President Mark Schlissel's house on campus to protest the sex assaults and abuse Anderson inflicted upon students and student-athletes from 1966 until he retired in 2003.

On Wednesday, attorney Rocky Ratliff, a former Ohio State wrestler who has spoken out about the abuse he and hundreds of other students had to endure at the hands of OSU Dr. Richard Strauss, joined Vaughn at his camp site on South University in Ann Arbor.

Ratliff said there is an unwillingness for both universities to make the changes he said would be necessary to protect their students and student-athletes and a desire to keep details of the assaults as quiet as possible.

They're about big business. They're about money," Ratliff said. "We're talking about big corporations, big business and that's why victims of sexual abuse are being dismissed."

This weekend when U of M and OSU face off in their historic rivalry on the gridiron, Ratliff said he and others from OSU will stand in solidarity with Vaughn in an effort to show that there is so much more on the line.

A spokesperson for U-M Police said they are investigating the vandalism of the statue but would not comment on whether there is surveillance video of the incident.

An anonymous email to local newsrooms Wednesday morning said that the person responsible for splattering red paint on the statue of Bo Schembechler and writing "Bo Knew" and "#hailtothevictims" was carried out by a local resident who stated:

"This action is done in solidarity with the Hail to the Victims campaign. Bo Schembechler is long seen as an iconic Michigan coach, but he knew that Robert Anderson, the team's doctor in the 1970s and 1980s, was sexually assaulting countless players each year. When Bo's son confronted him about his own assault, Bo punched him and told him to keep quiet. Bo pulled strings and bent over backwards to ensure that Anderson could keep his job. It is time for the world to know that Bo is responsible for the abuse of innumerable Michigan football players."

A spokesperson for the University of Michigan released the following statement:

We understand and appreciate the passionate advocacy on behalf of those who were abused by the late Robert Anderson.

But the vandalism to the University of Michigan statue of Bo Schembechler will be investigated fully in order to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

We continue to work toward fair compensation for the Anderson survivors through the confidential, court-supervised mediation process and we are working every day to make our campus safer for every member of our community.

Vaughn plans to continue his protest outside the president's house until Jan. 17, 2022 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.