It was an emotional roller coaster Thursday for youth soccer goalkeeper Freyja Reed.
Just an hour after learning the Marine Harvest Riptide soccer organization was kicking her out of the program, the 14-year-old received a $2,000 donation from local commercial fishermen to help her carry on with her training.
Reed and her mother Anissa are both opponents of fish farming, and trouble began when Marine Harvest, one of the biggest fish farming companies in the world, became the title sponsor for the Upper Island Riptide program.
Reed played for the U15 girls team, which the Riptide suspended operations of citing a dispute by Reed over Marine Harvest’s sponsorship of her team.
In an email to all members of the team, the Riptide Steering Committee, the organization running the club, said, “Due to the current situation and to ensure the safety and privacy of all Riptide players, the 2001 Girls program will be suspended until further notice.”
After a tense Tuesday meeting to try and resolve the issue was unsuccessful, the Riptide issued a press release Thursday stating Reed and the organization were parting ways.
“This decision does not come easily, but after repeated breaches of the program’s code of conduct and feedback from the wide majority of team players, their families, and program volunteers, this collective decision has been made,” the Riptide media release stated.
“While we respect the values that the family holds dear, we must also respect the values and expectations of the other 140 members and their families.
“Our decision to part ways with one member was done to ensure our other players, volunteers, and coaches can enjoy a safe and enjoyable environment. Our program has and always will, act in the best interests of all our players,” the release stated.
Anissa Reed said she read that email around 2 p.m., and at 3 p.m. she and her daughter were at the Comox Wharf at a rally to defend Freyja’s right to free speech and to receive the $2,000 cheque, which commercial fisherman spokesperson Travis Hird said is the start of a trust fund for the teen.
“We have been patient and have tried to accommodate the salmon farming industry, but we are not going to stand by and see a 14-year-old girl lose her dream of playing soccer and her hopes of being able to attend university because she refused to advertise the salmon farming industry every time she stepped onto the playing field,” Hird said in a press release issued Wednesday.
About 30 supporters, including Freyja’s great grandfather and grandfather, gathered at the Comox Wharf Thursday afternoon.
“This means so much,” Freyja said upon receiving the cheque. “Especially now I don’t know what i’m going to do for training. This is so awesome to have your guys support.”
One supporter told Freyja it was a shame she had to leave this community to play soccer, adding he was “ashamed it has come down to this. Good luck where ever you have to go to play soccer.”
Another said he believed the Riptide is the only community soccer league branded with a corporate title. “They should have left it Upper Island Riptide soccer club, but they put their name on it. It’s offensive.”
Anissa was also appreciative. “I would like to thank everybody. We moved here from Sointula so Freyja could play soccer. I love the coast. I’m a single mom, I run my own business. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been good.
“Now we’re going to have to pick up and move again. Which is going to be a financial hit, but we can do it. So this money that you guys have collected and are giving to Freya will allow me not to have to worry about training,” Anissa said.
“She really wants to go far in the game and I think that she can if she has the right training because she’s dedicated. I think that this is changing her life and I want you to know that the money will always be used to go to her sports.” She added they will be setting up a Facebook page to allow Freyja’s supporters to follow her career.
“As a parent watching all the abuse she has suffered, you guys are really helping to heal,” Anissa added.
She said it was not a mutual parting of the ways. “(The email from Riptide) says we have breached the contract so much they couldn’t work with us. But nobody contacted me for six weeks. I’ve had no communication directly from Riptide since Sept. 14.”
Anissa added, “Right now I actually believe the hand of Marine Harvest is reaching through this association and they have an agreement with them and I think that agreement also includes specific details which makes this organization act in a certain way.
“My belief is that the association doesn’t have a choice right now. I’ve asked to see that agreement, they’ve told everybody they’ve showed it to me, they put details of it on their website, but I’ve never seen the legal document.
“Its a one- to three-year agreement. I’ve been told it includes such things as taking the kids to jamborees up to Port McNeill and Alert Bay, which which are salmon farm controversial communities. The people up there definitely don’t want them.
“I think (Marine Harvest) is buying social licence. Because we’re opposed to that they just couldn’t have my daughter in the association, like part of the Riptide family.
“I honestly feel sorry for all the people tied up in Riptide. It is a great program, we liked it, we moved here for it. But everything has gotten real ugly real fast. It’s unfortunate,” Anissa said.
“I’ve never spoken out against the Riptide. Everything has to do with Marine Harvest…from the beginning…and for me it still does.
“I’m as angry as somebody can be for the way the association has treated my daughter. I feel they entered into agreements and Marine Harvest is controlling them like a puppet. And maybe they’re getting angry at us so they can just get rid of us.”
The parting of the ways became almost a certainty after the Tuesday meeting called to try and resolve the issue degenerated into parents dropping the F-bomb on her daughter, Anissa said.
While saying she cares about the people she was on the team with, Freyja added there was “definitely very little support at the meeting that was supposed to be to find a solution.
“When we tried to speak they wanted to put a time limit on what we had to say because (they said) it was for them. It felt like they wanted everyone to hate us. It was real difficult to be there and try to talk when you’re just being shut down.
“People were saying I’d ruined their families and their lives. it was harsh. I felt very intimidated by the parents. I was pretty scared at some points. People were standing up and shouting, telling other people they wanted to take it outside,” Freyja said.
“Part of me thought we could find a solution to this issue before that meeting. After that meeting we had a lot to think about and I couldn’t see how I could work with them because none of them wanted to work with us.”
Freyja said she definitely wants to continue playing soccer, but at this point does not know what the future will bring.