American College Sports Still Prefer Profits Over Sexual Abuse Survivors | College soccer


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AAs loyal and lifelong fans of the University of Michigan and Ohio State University, we disagree. Among us are countless Christmas tree decorations, mugs, basketball shorts, hoodies, soccer jerseys and, above all, rival distemper.

But we agree that in the face of the recent sexual abuse scandals that rocked both universities, we feel the pathetic horror, although perhaps not to the extent that it is commensurate with the crimes committed. The most recent revelations come from Michigan. Between 1966 and 2003, Michigan team doctor Robert Anderson sexually abused hundreds of athletes whom he had to cure and protect. Over the decades, many university officials were informed of the abuse by survivors and reportedly failed to act, including the late former sports director Don Canham, current assistant sports director and head coach Paul Schmidt, two former track coaches, a former wrestler coach and legendary former soccer coach Bo Schembechler. Schmidt, for his part, denies having known of the allegations against Anderson.

The latest revelations about what Schembechler, who died in 2006, knew and how he reacted to it are truly the stuff of nightmares. Schembechler’s son Matt has revealed that he was an Anderson survivor and that when the coach told his father about it he didn’t want to hear about it and then Matt said, “This was the first time.” he hit me with a closed fist. It threw me all the way through the kitchen. ”Other members of the trainer’s family say he was unaware of the abuse.

In another devastating statement, ex-player Daniel Kwiatkowski, another Anderson survivor, said that after informing coach Schembechler, “Bo looked at me and said, ‘Tough it up'”.

But the revelation we want to focus on here because it received the least attention comes from former player Gilvanni Johnson, who like the others says he was rejected by coach Schembechler when he tried to report Anderson’s transgressions. However, Johnson went on to say that soccer coaches threatened players with visits to Anderson as a form of motivation to play better in games. As Johnson put it, “It’s only now that I realize how crazy it was to threaten rape to get players to work harder.”

Incredibly, this reveal mirrors a similar revelation at Michigan’s rival Ohio State, which is running its own horrific sexual abuse scandal with OSU team doctor Dr. Richard Strauss, who sexually abused at least 350 athletes over the course of two decades. Sports Illustrated reported, “Some OSU coaches took advantage of the feigned threat to get Dr. Seeing Strauss as a motivation to run their athletes faster or harder. ”Ohio State Congressman and former wrestling coach Jim Jordan is accused of turning a blind eye to what happened to the young men below were under his direction. In fact, several athletes told the Ohio State commission on the scandal that they “spoke directly to – or in front of – the OSU coaching staff about Strauss’ inappropriate genital exams and … voyeurism.”

Jordan, for his part, denies these allegations. “It’s wrong. I’ve never seen anything, never heard of it, never been told about abuse,” Jordan told Fox News in 2018. “If it had been me, I would have looked into it.”

While every part of what has happened at OSU and UM is appalling, the fact is that the threat of sexual abuse could be used to “motivate” players, possibly through the physical demands of overtraining, which is a form in itself , particularly troubling of abuse. In fact, when sports departments use the threat of rape to motivate players, it puts everything about them at risk.

It is difficult, of course, to know how to fix what happened in Michigan (and in the state of Ohio and elsewhere). Of course, it should be understood that removing statues – like the now infamous figure standing outside Schembechler Hall on Michigan campus – and changing names isn’t enough. There has to be a process that creates full transparency about the damage that has occurred and mechanisms to ensure that it can never happen again. But we also have to face the fact that a college sports system that values ​​winning and the associated revenue above all else – Schembechler has racked up 194 wins in 21 years in Michigan – is a system that will always work as a system Incubator for harm. When dominance is at the core of the business, the degradation of the human body and mind is viewed as merely necessary collateral damage.

And so, disturbing but perhaps not surprising, the responses from Michigan and some prominent members of its community have not even approached that bar. Indeed, the responses of so many members of the UM soccer community as a whole suggest that perhaps the term “Michigan Man” might best be understood as shorthand for a particularly egregious form of venomous masculinity.

In its formal statement in response to Matt Schembechler, Kwiatkowsi, and Johnson’s testimony about Schembechler, the university made no mention of the coach, but instead emphasized the time that has passed since Anderson’s employment and death. Similarly, when asked about the allegation that Anderson’s abuse had been reported to Schembechler, current Michigan soccer coach Jim Harbaugh responded: “Nothing was ever swept under the rug or ignored. He addressed everything promptly. This is the Bo Schembechler I know. ”Harbaugh played under Schembechler when he was a quarterback in Michigan.

This gaslighting represents another round of victimization for those already traumatized. Survivors are repeatedly asked about their memories or why they waited to hear the truth – especially in high-profile cases like this one. It’s important to believe survivors regardless of gender. This is especially important given the stigma attached to the sexual abuse of men and boys. We live in a society where men are expected to be strong, masculine and straight. No world reflects this more than sport. There is a great fear that men will be branded as deviant or gay if they reveal they have been molested. When we deny these experiences, we make it even harder for men and boys to get the help they desperately need. In fact, the stigma surrounding sexual abuse is one reason the average time to disclosure of sexually abused men is 25 years, but only six months for women.

Even more disturbing, former Michigan player and current radio drama spokesperson Jim Brandstatter, who also helped draft a letter in defense of Schembechler’s legacy, signed by over 100 former Michigan players and AD officials, said: “Think of the … University of Michigan. You are probably contributing quite a lot of money. And if [they feel] One of their icons is wrongly persecuted, I don’t know if they will be so kind with their money. I’m just saying that I know a lot of people are disappointed that the university didn’t come to defend some of these people. “

Brandstatter’s reasoning indicates the incentive for the university to resolve the case as quietly as possible. This is a sports division that had sales of $ 198 million in the fiscal year before the pandemic. It is also an institution with an endowment of $ 12.5 billion. To imagine these numbers can be neatly separated from the value Bo Schembechler created for the institution over the 13 Big Ten titles he amassed in 21 years – or, more strikingly, the methods that enabled him to do so – is to sell imagination.

In the penultimate paragraph of the letter from former players defending Schembechler: “The efforts to destroy the reputation and legacy of coach Schembechler will not go unchallenged by those of us who knew him. Just because he’s not there doesn’t mean he’s not here. ”

It’s hard to disagree. The dogmatic determination of former players and staff to deny the bold revelations made by survivors testifies to Schembechler’s deepest legacy: a community of footballers who prefer the Michigan brand and its most famous coach to basic compassion.

Still, we also need to understand that this is not just a Michigan problem. This is the fourth school in the East Division of the Big Ten alone to be shaken by revelations of this magnitude. This tells us that, in a broader sense, it is a college sports issue. These disturbing allegations provide further evidence of the way in which college sport corrupts the mission of higher education by jeopardizing success in the field and the myriad material benefits it offers over the welfare of the students it is intended to serve. Gives priority.

To be honest, there is no reform of a system that can incorporate sexual violence into its training methods. And yet that is exactly the system we are faced with.

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