California school rejects All-American’s jersey ceremony for fear athlete is being exploited

Cameron Smith

By all accounts, Sebastian LaRue is one of the nation's top prep football prospects. A senior at Santa Monica (Calif.) High (aka Samohi), LaRue is a standout wide receiver and USC commit, and has been widely tapped to be the next great homegrown star receiver for the Trojans come 2013 and beyond.

As part of his high school progression, LaRue was selected to play in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game. As is traditional, representatives from Under Armour and ESPN reached out to Samohi and asked to hold a special ceremony for LaRue to be given his official game jersey. Similar honorific ceremonies take place all over the country with other top players.

Yet, it was different for LaRue, for one simple reason: Samohi flat out refused to host the ceremony.

As reported by the Santa Monica Daily Press,  Samohi officials rejected Under Armour and ESPN's request to host the ceremony out of a desire to keep the receiver from being exploited by the sportswear company and media goliath.

Sebastian LaRue in action during summer 7-on-7 play —

In an email exchange between Samohi principal Laurel Fretz and LaRue's mother, as obtained by the Daily Press, Fretz made her beliefs about the purpose of the jersey ceremony abundantly clear.

"If we didn't care about Sebastian and his future, we would say, 'Whatever. Sure, let's do some ceremonies.'" Fretz wrote in her email. "But seriously, we cannot support a sporting good company coming to campus to take advantage of Sebastian in order to sell shirts."

According to the paper, there was an internal debate between Fretz and the school's front office administration and Samohi's athletic director, Daniel Escalera. While the AD admitted that there were some mild eligibility concerns stemming from the ceremony, he openly advocated having the event on campus.

[Related: High School QB in critical condition after suffering traumatic brain injury during game]

Instead, the LaRue family had to scramble to find an off-campus site for the ceremony, with five different possible sites discussed until a final, off-site location was selected, the requisite Under Armour and ESPN banners were set up and LaRue accepted his jersey, albeit without the massive fan cheers that usually accompany such an event.

"It's a big honor," LaRue told ESPN reporter Blair Angulo at his jersey ceremony. "It's something you think about growing up. You remember watching all the other guys that played in games like this, guys that have gone on to do great things in college and the NFL.

"I set out to do this. Last year as a junior I said I wanted to experience these things. I wanted to feel like I accomplished everything that I could at this level."

Now, an official jersey ceremony can be part of that experience, even if it didn't unfold anywhere near the way LaRue thought it would.

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