They Suffered Silently: College sports and the medical perversion

Chuck Christian played on the University of Michigan football team forty years ago under coach Bo Schembechler.  Medical checkups are common practice among “student” athletes, but what Christian didn’t know at the time was that the team’s doctor Robert Anderson (now dead) was sexually abusing him.  And hundreds of other athletes over several decades.

He thought he was getting football physicals. He was being abused.

For more than 40 years, Chuck Christian did not call himself a victim because he did not think he was one.

He was a muralist who had played tight end at Michigan. He grew up poor in Detroit but came to be a world traveler. He contracted prostate cancer and outlived his doctors’ predictions.

Then, in February, an old teammate called.

Remember Dr. Robert Anderson? The team doctor at Michigan who performed painful, unexplained rectal examinations? Someone reported him, the former teammate said, and it turns out that what he did to you, and to so many other players, was probably a crime.

“I realized that he had victimized so many of us,” Christian said in a recent interview.

Since February, when the university revealed findings of a secret, long-running investigation, hundreds of people have complained about Anderson’s conduct. As the inquiry unfolded, lawyers said it was increasingly clear that while Michigan achieved decades of success with many of the nation’s finest athletes, it also harbored a vast sexual abuse scandal.

Christian soon learned that, like him, many other athletes had quietly left the campus without recognizing that Anderson’s behavior demanded an investigation.

How much did toxic masculinity affect players’ willingness (or unwillingness) to come forward?  How many knew they were sexually abused but afraid of being viewed as “less of a man” by reporting sexual assault?  How many other predators took up jobs in sports, in positions where they wouldn’t face close scrutiny?

There will be a year without college sports.  Independent investigators should be sent into every US college and university sports program and look at their records, medical and otherwise.  Find out how many schools have allowed predators to rape and abuse with impunity for decades.

Violent and abusive “coaches” like Mike Leach, Mike Rice and Bobby Knights are bad enough, but for “schools” to allow and protect rapists like Robert Anderson, Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky is beyond reprehensible.