Sports

Dallas Hobbs, Cedar Rapids Washington grad, at the forefront of Pac-12 football player movement

Washington State lineman among those calling for better COVID safety protocols

Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs (98) stands on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college foo
Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs (98) stands on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Northern Colorado in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

CEDAR RAPIDS — He did an interview for a segment on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines.” ABC interviewed him for its “Good Morning America” show, though he’s not sure it’ll actually air.

He had a long discussion on Zoom the other day with his school’s president and athletics director, as well as his head coach. He said those were done as much for explanation's sake as anything.

When you put your name out there as part of a movement, everyone wants to talk to you. Everyone has been wanting to talk this week to Dallas Hobbs.

“It’s been crazy,” the Washington State junior defensive lineman and Cedar Rapids Washington High School graduate said Thursday afternoon from Pullman, Wash. “A lot of miscommunication, and that stirred up a lot of issues over here. But I think stuff is definitely getting worked out here.”

Hobbs was one of 13 football players from the Pac-12 conference to put their names to a letter published Sunday on The Players’ Tribune, demanding several things, first and foremost conference uniformity when it comes to guidelines and protocols regarding player health and safety during a possible season in this COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are Pac-12 Football Players, We Stand Unified, and Will Opt-Out if Our Demands Are Not Met,” was the letter’s headline.

It continued:

“Hundreds of Pac-12 football players throughout our conference who are very concerned with the risks COVID-19 poses to our personal health and the health of our families and communities. There’s not enough transparency about health risks, no uniformity to ensure we’re all safe when we play each other, and no adequate enforcement infrastructure. NCAA sports has truly failed us, it doesn’t enforce any health and safety standards. We believe a football season under these conditions would be reckless and put us at needless risk. We will not play until there is real change that is acceptable to us.”

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Players from the Big Ten Conference penned a similar letter Wednesday on The Players’ Tribune, demanding stricter protocols and being given a voice from the conference and the NCAA when it comes to safeguarding them from the coronavirus during practice and/or competition.

“Given that the players are the primary stakeholders in the business of college sports, we believe any course of action moving forward needs to include player input,” the letter said. “We are deeply disappointed with the lack of leadership demonstrated by the NCAA with respect to player safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that the NCAA must — on its own and through collaboration with the conference — devise a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players leading up to and during the upcoming fall season.”

The Pac-12 letter also demanded the league protect other sports from being eliminated. Stanford, for instance, recently announced the elimination of 11 varsity programs due to budget cuts forced by the pandemic.

It also demanded racial injustice be addressed in college sports and called for pay for college athletes, as well as other economic rights. There are approximately 400 Pac-12 players who are part of the #WeAreUnited movement.

“Really, our main goal is COVID and pushing those enforced health and safety standards,” Hobbs said. “They need to be uniform across the whole conference. That is what we are really pushing forward, that’s the big concern around our conference, around the country.

“COVID really kind of put a spotlight on those other issues. So it was like we might as well throw the racial injustice issue, economic injustice, protecting all the sports and all the other demands, I guess you could call them, into the list. Because why not, you know? You really only have one shot for these things, so we figured we might not get another chance, we might as well throw out everything that is an issue or a concern for us.”

Hobbs said he first learned about the Pac-12 movement from Stanford defensive lineman and fellow Iowan Dylan Boles. The two began talking about the coronavirus and how their respective schools were handling a possible return to play.

He learned through chat groups and other communication, many players from the conference were expressing their worries.

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“It started with that,” he said. “We went around the conference, really trying to find leadership and trying to find more players on our teams that felt the same way and had concerns. That’s just really how it happened. Just a whole bunch of phone calls, a whole bunch of hours of learning and voicing our opinions and concerns.

“You saw how many players started speaking up with the George Floyd stuff happening. There were a lot of people in our conference that were really standing up on those issues. That’s really how this came about. We realize we do have a voice, we do have power. People are starting to use that to really take advantage of their platform. Use what they have to voice however they are feeling: their concerns, issues, how things are going, period, how things are going bad.”

Hobbs said he ceased his workouts at Washington State late last week. He is uncertain if he will opt out of the season, if there is one, saying a decision on whether players will retain any extra eligibility should they decide not to play being a factor for himself and many others.

“We know, for sure, that (more stringent) health and safety standards will be enforced. That is something that is not really negotiable on our part,” Hobbs said. “I think that is something that should be one of the main concerns because right now there is definitely some unease about not having a set-in-stone plan. A lot of schools and teams are creating their own plans right now and enforcing their own guidelines.

“I know the Pac-12 has said ‘Hey, we have had schools commit to this.’ But just talking to other players, talking to other individuals, it doesn’t seem that way. To us, a lot of schools are handling this very poorly. There are a lot of things we want to do. We just want to work toward a Pac-12 that is 100 percent and doesn’t have a lot of restrictions when we come to play. We’re hoping all of those things can be handled.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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