Correction: Based on incorrect published reports, the original verison of this story mistakenly reported that Santa Monica High School did not host the ceremony. That decision was reversed and the ceremony was held on campus Monday.
Standout wide-receiver Sebastian LaRue has been selected among the nation's elite young players to compete in the Under Armour's All-America High School Football Game—but his recognition has come differently than most.
He's garnering just as much attention these days for Santa Monica High School's handling of the announcement.
Being selected to compete in the All-America Game typically entails an Under Armour-sponsored press conference held on-campus of the player's school. The player receives his official game day jersey and picks a hat to announce his college choice.
Samohi initially told the USC commit it wouldn't host the ceremony. At first, Principal Laurel Fretz declined the request for an on-campus ceremony because they believed LaRue would be exploited. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, which broke the story, Fretz told LaRue's family, "We cannot support a sporting good company coming to campus to take advantage of Sebastian in order to sell shirts."
Then, Superintendent Sandra Lyon intervened, the paper reported.
“It was with [Lyon’s] guidance that we decided to have the ceremony [Monday] and we are happy to do so,” Fretz wrote in an e-mail to the Daily Press. “Sebastian is an excellent athlete and we are very proud of him both on and off the field.”
With explosive speed, soft hands and great field vision, LaRue was ranked among ESPN's exclusive list of Top 150 recruits in the country. As a junior he was named first team All-Ocean League and first team All-CIF.
“I know most people are doing it in front of their host school,” he told an ESPN reporter at the ceremony. “It was really good for me to do in front of the people I’m with all of the time… the people that really push me to be great… my teammates, my family, my coaches.”
Forbes contributor Bob Cook raised some interesting talking points this week when he asked, "is the problem that LaRue was being exploited, or that the school was getting nothing in return?"
The writer contends Samohi should have compromised with Under Armour by asking it to contribute to the team, which appears to be in need of money.
It's charging players $180 each this year for practice and game wear and is plugging the education foundation's Santa Monica 5000 races, which benefit local athletic teams facing funding shortfalls. The team's website also advertises sponsorship opportunities for companies who want their names to appear on game-day banners.
"Under Armour could have had its on-campus ceremony with LaRue, and spread its name shamelessly to the Santa Monica student populace," Cook wrote.
Would that have been a win-win?
Should Samohi have stood by its earlier decision to deny the ceremony or did it make the right choice?
Do you have a solution for how administrators should have handled Under Armour's request for an on-campus press conference?