An unknown individual splattered red paint onto the statue of Bo Schembechler in front of Schembechler Hall on the University of Michigan campus and spray painted “Bo knew #HailToTheVictims” at its base overnight Tuesday.
“Bo knew” references the allegations that the late Schembechler, head football coach at Michigan from 1969 to 1989 and later athletic director, was alerted several times to former athletic doctor Robert Anderson’s sexual abuse of football players and failed to take appropriate action. Anderson was the head doctor for the football team during much of Schembechler’s tenure.
More than 950 former University students have come forward in recent years alleging Anderson abused them, most typically under the guise of medical examinations.
An anonymous local resident took responsibility for the action in an email sent to local media and obtained by The Michigan Daily.
“It is time for the world to know that Bo is responsible for the abuse of innumerable Michigan football players,” the resident wrote.
The resident wrote that the action was in solidarity with the “Hail to the Victims” campaign led by Anderson survivors, who have been protesting for the past few months to bring attention to the abuse and to hold the University accountable.
Jonathan Vaughn, a former football player and Anderson survivor who has been protesting outside of University President Mark Schlissel’s house since Oct. 8 to ask for the University to take responsibility for Anderson’s abuse, told The Daily that the statue paint was not related to his protest.
“Not in anyway!” Vaughn wrote in a text message. “I’m out here everyday fighting for justice why would I go and do something unjust?!” [sic]
The University is investigating the paint incident, according to University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald.
“We understand and appreciate the passionate advocacy on behalf of those who were abused by the late Robert Anderson,” Fitzgerald wrote in an email to The Daily. “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.”
Fitzgerald added that the University is working toward “fair compensation” for Anderson survivors in confidential mediation.
“We are working every day to make our campus safer for every member of our community,” Fitzgerald wrote.
A spokesperson for the Division of Public Safety and Security had no update to provide on the investigation.
A representative for Michigan Students Against Sexual Assault, a campus organization that has advocated for Anderson survivors in recent months, did not have any information or comment on the paint incident.
The paint incident comes days before the Michigan football team faces Ohio State, in a rivalry that largely defined Schembechler’s legacy before allegations that he knew of Anderson’s abuse surfaced last year. Since then, many community members have called for a reevaluation of the place of Schembechler’s image on campus.
Though the University has yet to comment directly on Schembechler, the huge “The Team, The Team, The Team” banner, quoting a famous Schembechler speech and traditionally unfurled in the student section at every home game, has not appeared at Michigan Stadium since 2019.
Schlissel declined to answer whether he supported removing the statue or renaming Schembechler Hall, the football team’s main practice facility, when The Daily asked him in August.
“This Schembechler issue is too tied up in the litigation around the awful acts of Dr. Anderson to really act on right now,” Schlissel said. “We’ll see what happens down the road.”
Daily News Editor Calder Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.